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The Newcomer

I don't need a 'Big Brother'

by Frances Potts

Name something the "Patriot Act" and how is any loyal, faithful American going to protest against it? I love my country as much as the next person, but some things are carried a little too far in the name of protection.

The Patriot Act's powers will expire at the end of 2005 but Congress is being urged to renew them. A bill has been introduced by two senators, one a Democrat and one a Republican, to put a curb on some of the act's powers and add what is being called "checks and balances".

This act was put together in a hurry after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. It allows for some search and surveillance provisions with which I don't feel comfortable.

In fact, I feel ill at ease about the Patriot Act in general, beginning with its name.

Secrecy has surrounded its use, and only recently has Attorney General Alberto Gonzales disclosed how some of the search and surveillance provisions have been used.

This Patriot Act is not being used just to fight terrorism. It is being used as a tool for other criminal investigations.

That may sound great, but it can lead to abuse.

The Patriot Act allows records to be seized. This means, in theory, that library, book store, medical and gun sale records could be taken to see to check up on our nasty habits. Well, maybe terrorists can be ferreted out in that manner, but this non-combative, peace-loving grandma would hate to be held accountable for some of the literature I've checked out from libraries over 70 years!

I am not conversant with all aspects of this act. When workshops were being held by opponents of it to explain the Patriot Act in detail and outline all the ramifications of its complicated agenda, I opted not to attend because I thought it was going to be short-lived. Shame on me!

Now that I see that this 'emergency' act probably isn't going to go away, I am concerned.

To me, it's like having someone holding a stick of dynamite and telling me that it will only be tossed at the bad guys. But who is going to determine who the bad guys are? I thought that was the job of a jury after suspects are caught.

I've been told the Patriot Act allows the 'good guys' to burst through your front door without notice. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that warrants which allow delayed notification of a search have been issued through the Patriot Act.

I'd like to say, "Listen, up, Americans, before we have no rights left".

The sneaky-pete methods that are being used by our government through the Patriot Act are not ones I can condone. Just because other governments serve as watch-dogs over their citizenry is no reason for the United States of America to follow suit.

I, for one, do not need or want a Big Brother to watch over me.

Frances Potts is a retired journalist who spent her career working for several newspapers in Washington state.

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