A Positive Step Towards Improving the Patriot Act
Yesterday the House voted not to renew a portion of the Patriot Act that allows investigators to obtain people’s library checkout records and bookstore receipts. This is a positive step towards removing the portions of the Patriot Act that cross the line between strong policing and invasion of our freedoms.
The measure passed with a solid 238-187 vote, which provides hope that enough libertarian-minded Republicans are willing to remove the other bad ideas included in the original Patriot Act. Opponents say we need the ability to look at library and bookstore records in order to apprehend terrorists. But there is and should be nothing wrong or suspicious with reading books—any books. Any number of innocent Americans could get caught up in this police method if it were ever to become common practice.
We must always remember that the War on Terror is not just about preserving our lives. It’s about preserving our freedoms too. And much of freedom is based on our ability to live our lives in relative anonymity, without probing by our government. We need vigorous policing, but we also need vigorous freedoms.
Allowing criminal investigators to look at our bookstore purchases and library records opens a door that should not be opened. The potential for abuse is too great. As I’ve said before, I trust our law enforcement to almost always do what’s right, but I don’t trust them to never do what’s wrong. That’s why there are barriers created. That’s why, in the Constitution, our Founders ensured law enforcement could not have free reign.
The House just took and important step forward in reestablishing an important barrier. Now we need the Senate to follow suit and President Bush to have the wisdom to not veto the changes.