Friday, July 09, 2004



The Patriot act survived amendment yesterday in the house with at 210-210 vote. The amendment would have blocked the measures of the bill that allows the government to get library and book store records with a simple search warrant. The rationale for this was "Justice Department documents asserting that terrorists have communicated over the Internet via public library computers."

Set aside the fact that what was cited above doesn't have anything to do with reading habits or purchase habits at libraries and bookstores.

The vote was held open for 23 minutes after the deadline so the Republican leadership could have extra time to vote. Set aside the procedural crap (which really annoys me - the rules are there for a reason, after all, just because you don't like the vote doesn't mean you can change them), I want to talk about a bigger contradiction here:

The argument that the government can come into my home secretly and search with a secret search warrant is that it is necessary in a time of terrorism. The treat of terrorism is so great that we must all sacrifice some of our liberties because a library or book store habit might possibly be used by terrorists.

In some sense we have all been criminalized by this: Rather than going after the real terrorists / criminals, we must all now operate under the watch of the government.

The contradiction comes when this approach is considered relative to gun ownership. Wouldn't this be a better place to start? I think every one can agree that a gun is a bit more immediately deadly than a book. Working with Republican Leadership in the house, the Bush Administration and the NRA have pushed through rules that require gun ownership records be destroyed one day after they've been created. That's a great system. At a higher level however, whenever gun restrictions are proposed, the NRA et al always raise the call that gun owners are being criminalized. Does the PATRIOT act criminalize book readers?

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