Thursday, June 09, 2005

Make Permanent the Privacy Infringement Act!

As Bush stumped today for continuation of the Patriot Act, he described “scary scenarios that he said were thwarted by law enforcement and intelligence officers working together with powers granted by the [Patriot Act].”

I have heard a few scary scenarios that have emerged with the advent of the Patriot Act (or the Privacy Infringement Act). There is the story of Brandon Mayfield, who was held by investigators for 3 weeks without charge. The FBI had found a bag that contained explosive detonators like those used in Madrid (not the same ones used). The bag had a fingerprint on it. The FBI claimed that the fingerprint matched Mayfield’s. In fact, the FBI was mistaken.

There is also the story of Al Badr al-Hazmi, who was held in solitary confinement for two weeks because “he shared the last name as one of the hijackers and had been in phone contact months earlier with someone at the Saudi Arabian embassy with the last name ‘bin Laden.’” The FBI might have considered that Osama Bin Laden is only one of 50 sons of Sheik Mohammed bin Laden, who was very friendly with Saudi royalty. It would have been reasonable, then, to think that there might be other Bin Ladens with a greater chance of answering a phone at the Saudi embassy than Osama, who was at that time avoiding being smoked out of a hole by the President.

But the President clearly was not talking about these scary stories. Maybe he was talking about terrorist plots like the one in Carmel, Indiana (uncovered by Katherine Harris) in which a middle-eastern gentleman was trying to blow up the city's power grid. That was the only specific story I have ever heard of thwarted terrorist activity. Of course, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Mayor of Carmel, Head of Homeland Security and the FBI all denied that this “scary scenario” ever happened.

Well, I'm sure the President was talking about actual "scary scenarios" that really happened. I have confidence that he would never allude to nonexistent occurences using the safety net of vagueness. I have never known him to mislead the American people for the sake of a questionable policy initiative. The Patriot Act is good. The President Said So. Isn't that proof enough for you cynics?


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