Patriot Act II: More Attacks on Democratic Rights

April 29, 2003

The Justice Department has drafted a second edition of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. This new legislation, called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, would increase the arbitrary police power of the govern
ment, further criminalize political dissent and undermine such basic rights as the right to association, freedom of speech, the right to privacy and freedom from government surveillance.

Below we outline some of the key features of this proposed legislation.

Criminalizing Dissent

The first Patriot Act used the word "terrorism" as a way to give the government arbitrary power to criminalize dissent by outlawing a broad range of political organizations and protests. Amongst other things, the Attorney General and Secretary of State were given the power, solely on the basis of their own prerogative, to proscribe any organization as "terrorist" and in turn subject members and supporters to repression.

Patriot 2 further uses the bogey of "terrorism" to criminalize political opposition. For example, native-born Americans could be stripped of the rights of citizenship for "supporting" an organization labelled as terrorist, even if they only supported lawful activities.

The draft law would give the executive branch of government sole authority (without judicial review) to determine that any "activities threatening the national security interest" are crimes. Recently, for example, the federal government declared that dockworkers "threatened national security" by picketing at various ports. So too, a recent anti-war demonstration in New York City was refused a permit to march on the grounds of "security concerns." Under Patriot II, such workers' pickets and anti-war protests could be treated as federal crimes.

In addition, fifteen new crimes would be added to the list of those punishable by death. Any activity labelled "terrorist" by the government - which could include peaceful protests - which resulted in the accidental death of someone could be punished with a death sentence.

Spying and Surveillance

Patriot II would give government virtually unlimited authority to spy on Americans, conduct secret searches and wiretaps, keep secret dossiers on anyone and everyone, etc.

It would allow the government, in certain instances, to conduct warrantless searches and wiretaps, gain access to credit reports and other records without judicial process and even obtain and catalogue genetic information without a court order.

Limitations on police spying on political and religious organizations would be terminated and the government would be allowed to conduct wiretaps and surveillance of U.S. citizens on behalf of foreign governments.

Immigrants

Patriot II would also further attack the rights of immigrants.

Any immigrant designated by the Attorney General as a "threat to national security" could be summarily deported, without evidence of any crime and without any hearing. Such cases would be exempted from judicial review with even the right to habeas corpus review suspended.

In short, the Bush administration is continuing down the road of fascism and a police state.

Combat This Growing Fascism

Bush tries to justify this fascistization by claiming that the "war against terrorism" has created a "national crisis" and a "national emergency." And according to the government's logic, the "national interests" can only be interpreted and defended by the executive branch of government (i.e. the Bush administration). Thus, it is necessary for the executive to usurp unlimited and absolute power in order to insure the very survival of the American people.

This completely negates the people's democratic rights. The very concept of inalienable rights arose to give expression to the fact that the people are the real, sovereign power and to provide the people with certain guarantees against the arbitrary usurpation of power. In other words, rights are needed, most of all, at the time of "emergencies" in order for the people to protect themselves against the government.

The fact is that today, as in the past, the government uses such terms as "national security" and "national interest" to assert that the interests of the big capitalist class are the interests of the people and country as a whole.

And it is precisely because, in reality, the capitalist program is a program of aggressive, imperialist war, a program of robbery of the public treasury and of increasing the exploitation of the people, a program of racism, that the government finds it necessary to strengthen its apparatus of repression.

The capitalists know that they cannot and are not winning the political allegiance of the people. The capitalists and their government are preparing to suppress dissenting views and the people's rights because they know that the capitalist views cannot stand the light of day and that the people will keep coming forward to oppose their war program. In other words, the very fact that the capitalists are turning towards fascism, that they need fascism, shows their mortal weakness, shows that their aims and program are in opposition to the vast majority of the people.

The struggle against growing fascism is not an isolated thing but one link in the popular struggle against war and exploitation, part of the struggle to defeat the reactionary agenda of the capitalists and make the agenda of the people the guiding line of our country.

The best way to defeat the attacks on the people's rights is to continue to exercise these rights by organizing against the "war on terrorism" and the entire capitalist program. The way to defeat fascism is for the working class and people to strengthen their independent political movement, gain the political power and bring about the fundamental social, economic and political changes necessary to create a society which guarantees peace, democracy and the rights of the people.