Patriot Act examined |

Patriot Act examined

With librarians outraged, peace activists worried their sit-ins will land them unwarranted jail time, and a U.S. attorney calling the American Civil Liberties Union a liar, it is no wonder Nevada County residents are confused about the USA Patriot Act.

In response to the debate and confusion, the county’s residents have been asking questions – and every side appears to have answers about the act, which actually is an acronym for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

On Tuesday, the Nevada County Republican Women Federated hosted a luncheon and invited guest speaker MacGregor Scott, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of California who was nominated by President Bush in 2003. With State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, in attendance, the group listened to Scott lay out the details of why the act is good for the average American who has no terrorist ties.

Scott targeted what he said were the four most controversial parts of the act. All are in the second section and deal with federal laws that allow federal law enforcement to wire tap phone lines, dig into e-mail, delay notification for search and seizure, and obtain business records for suspected terrorists.

The Patriot Act “makes available for terrorism investigations the same tools available for drugs and racketeering investigations,” Scott said. The delayed notification of warrants and the ability to tap phone lines is nothing new, he said. In fact, federal law enforcement agents have been doing it for decades, he said.

“All we’ve done is add terrorism to that list.” Scott said.

But some Nevada County residents still feel their civil rights are in danger of being violated. Scott said he attributes this “hysteria” to the ACLU spreading lies on its Web site about how far law enforcement officials will go to check terrorism.

This debate has led 352 cities, towns, and counties in the nation to pass resolutions calling the USA Patriot Act unconstitutional. On Aug. 9, Nevada City approved such a resolution, joining cities such as Lincoln, Neb.; Dallas, Texas; and Washington, D.C.

Activist Beth Moore Haines helped coordinate efforts to get the resolution passed in Nevada City and now is aiding in the passage of the resolution in Grass Valley and Truckee. She said these two cities will need to address the issue within the next three to four months. Moore Haines said there are some useful parts of the Patriot Act, but many are too broad.

One example is the definition of the word “terrorist,” she said. Some groups Moore Haines said could be considered “terrorist” are “Operation Rescue or Greenpeace or other folks who are purposely flouting the law as an exercise of free speech,” she said.

Scott said he believes the debate about the Patriot Act at a local level can be positive and helpful. “If it is an honest debate, we win.”

For more information on the USA Patriot Act, visit:

– Department of Justice USA Patriot Act Web site:

– Bill of Rights Defense Committee Web site :

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