[FoRK] Turn them over, they're done

Owen Byrne owen at permafrost.net
Mon Apr 26 07:28:13 PDT 2004

In other news, The Bush Administration announced the setup of a national 
system of Gitmo-type concentration camps to eradicate the Muslim 
Problem. The bill named the "America, Love it Or Leave It Act" was 
described by one Bush official - "Americans are by and large 
sub-literate, as long as the name is good, the talking heads will fill 
in the blanks for people."



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April 25, 2004 	
E-mail story 
Print <http://www.latimes.com/la-na-patriot25apr25,1,6934194,print.story>

Politics of Patriot Act Turn Right for Bush
Times Headlines

more > <http://>




By Peter Wallsten, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Only months ago, Democrats were targeting the controversial 
USA Patriot Act as an ideal issue to use in their campaign against 
President Bush, assailing the law as an intrusion on civil rights. But 
in a turnabout, the act has suddenly emerged as a cornerstone of Bush's 
reelection campaign, while Democratic rival Sen. John F. Kerry and 
others have toned down their criticism.

The Patriot Act is proving to be more popular in opinion polls than once 
expected, given its diverse range of critics. Also, both Democratic and 
Republican strategists now believe that public debate over the Patriot 
Act and other aspects of the nation's response to terrorism only enhance 
Bush's national security credentials, while threatening to paint Kerry 
as soft on terrorism.

The result is that the Democrats have lost what once seemed like a 
useful tool for rallying opposition to the president.

"There's a dangerous trap here for Democrats," said Jim Mulhall, a 
Democratic strategist working with independent groups targeting Bush. 
"It's a terribly unfair characterization, but … if Democrats are not 
careful, they will sound more like they're worried about technical 
concerns than they are about locking up terrorists."

Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has recently 
been couching his positions on the law as "fixes," whereas in December 
the Massachusetts senator called for "replacing the Patriot Act with a 
new law that protects our people and our liberties at the same time." 
Kerry has even argued that his ideas would make the law, bashed 
repeatedly last year by nearly all the Democratic presidential 
contenders, tougher than it is currently.

Bush showcased his aggressive support for the Patriot Act last week, 
appearing in Buffalo, N.Y., with the federal prosecutor who uncovered a 
suspected terrorist cell dubbed the Lackawanna Six after the 2001 
terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon.

Bush argued that the law "defends our liberty" against terrorists and 
should be strengthened. He said terrorists had been caught in part 
because of the new law, drawing applause from a crowd of invited guests.

"The true threat to the 21st century is the fact somebody is trying to 
come back into our country and hurt us," Bush said. "And we ought to be 
able to at least send a signal through law that says we're going to 
treat you equally as tough as we do mobsters and drug lords."

Passed with overwhelming support from lawmakers and signed by Bush 
within two months of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Patriot Act gives 
officials more powers in conducting searches and seizures and in sharing 

It allows the government to cite terrorism and computer fraud as the 
basis for requesting wiretaps; allows roving wiretaps to follow 
suspects, no matter what telephones they use; and allows secret searches 
in which the authorities delay notifying a suspect.

Among other provisions, it allows the attorney general to detain any 
noncitizen believed to be a national security risk, in some cases for 
long periods of time.

One key provision aims to remove a legal "wall" that limited the sharing 
of information between criminal and intelligence investigators. 
Testimony before the independent Sept. 11 commission has suggested that 
the barrier inhibited authorities from learning more about the Sept. 11 
hijackers before the attacks.

The Patriot Act has been an awkward issue at times for Bush, drawing 
heat from some in his own conservative base. Critics have included not 
only the Democratic presidential candidates and the American Civil 
Liberties Union, but also libertarians, advocates for smaller government 
and members of the National Rifle Assn.

*Critics Versus the Polls

*Many critics denounced the act as an intrusion on privacy rights and 
civil liberties.

Last fall, the very mention of Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's name and his 
link to promoting the Patriot Act was easily the biggest applause-getter 
in Democratic rallies. When Ashcroft embarked on a national tour to 
highlight the law's benefits, he was greeted at nearly every stop by 

But a series of new polls published last week have led strategists to 
conclude that the deftly named Patriot Act is a winner for Bush.

Those polls also gave the president a lead over Kerry, despite weeks of 
potentially damaging footage of deadly chaos in Iraq, tough questions 
about Bush's leadership on terrorism by the Sept. 11 commission and a 
new book suggesting Bush was intent on invading Iraq far earlier than 
was initially believed.

While the president's numbers have sagged on issues such as the economy 
and the war in Iraq, a Washington Post/ABC News survey found that 63% 
approved of the president's handling of the war on terrorism. In a 
Gallup Poll conducted for CNN and USA Today, more than twice as many 
respondents said they thought Bush would do a "good job" on terrorism as 
thought Kerry would.

And though polls have shown that certain aspects of the Patriot Act are 
unpopular when they are explained to voters, responses to broader 
questions suggest general support for the law.

More than six in 10 respondents to a February Gallup/CNN/USA Today 
survey said the law is just about right or does not go far enough, 
though only about one-fourth said it goes too far.

Experts think the law will grow in popularity, at least in the short 
term, as dramatic pictures of bomb blasts in Iraq, Spain and Saudi 
Arabia heighten fear that an attack could happen in the U.S. again.

Administration officials have even speculated openly in recent days, 
without revealing any evidence to back up their claims, that terrorists 
could be planning attacks to coincide with the presidential election in 

"It's the only area where Bush gets positive numbers, and his strategy 
is to find every way to talk about the war on terror, whether it's the 
Patriot Act or Iraq," said Steve Murphy, a Democratic strategist who 
managed the unsuccessful presidential campaign this year of Rep. Dick 
Gephardt of Missouri.

The change in tone is evident in the words of Kerry. In December, weeks 
before the critical Iowa caucuses, Kerry delivered a blistering speech 
railing against key elements of the Patriot Act and chiding Ashcroft, 
telling a partisan crowd that the law should be replaced.

"At this very moment, an FBI agent could be rifling through every 
website you've ever visited, and you would never know it," Kerry said in 
his Iowa City speech.

"A Justice Department official in Washington could be reading every 
e-mail you've sent in the last few months — and they wouldn't need a 
judge's permission or even a reason to do so," he added.

"Federal investigators could be demanding and receiving upon request 
your private hospital medical records," Kerry said. "Law enforcement 
officers could be entering your house while you are gone — rifling 
through your possessions — and leaving without every letting you know 
they had been there."

At the time, Kerry was struggling to explain why he voted for the law, 
parts of which are set to expire in 2005. He said it contained "good 
ideas," even taking credit for writing part of it, but that Bush and 
Ashcroft abused their new investigating powers for purposes beyond 
fighting terrorism.

"It clearly wasn't a perfect bill — and it had a number of flaws — but 
this wasn't the time to haggle. It was the time to act," Kerry said in 

In recent days, though, Kerry's assessment has been delivered in a far 
more positive context.

*Kerry's Message

*After Bush used his weekend radio address recently to urge a 
continuation of the Patriot Act, Kerry issued a written statement 
listing ideas for "improving" and "fixing" the law by strengthening 
provisions on money laundering, cracking down on terrorists' assets, 
improving information-sharing policies and enhancing other sections that 
specifically target terrorists.

A Kerry spokesman insisted later that the candidate's message has not 
changed, arguing that it is the challenger, not the president, who 
brings the most muscular view of the Patriot Act to the race.

"The president is misleading America into thinking that the current law 
is doing all it needs to do," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman. "The 
fact is that it's failed to address many of the problems that were 
exposed by 9/11, including the intelligence sharing problems that 
continue to plague the FBI, CIA and other security agencies."

Some who agreed with Kerry's early tough stands against the law's 
potential intrusions on civil liberties now say they are not quite sure 
where the senator stands.

"I'm concerned where Kerry will ultimately come down," said Laura 
Murphy, director of the Washington office of the American Civil 
Liberties Union. "There's going to be a bump in support [for the Patriot 
Act], and Kerry needs to come out informed and swinging the way he did 
in December."


/Times staff writers James Rainey in Washington, Maria L. La Ganga in 
San Francisco and Matea Gold in New York contributed to this report.


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