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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Rights Versus the USA Patriot Act

September 06, 2003

"Powers of Patriot Act in Eye of the Beholder" (Sept. 2) provides little to clarify the areas of "misconception" that people have regarding the USA Patriot Act. The only thing that is clear to me is that there are sections in the act that do undermine our constitutional rights. Using the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court, a secret tribunal (emphasis on the word "secret"), to circumvent the usual grand jury process in criminal investigations deprives a suspect of due process.

The broad nature of the Patriot Act's definition of "domestic terrorism" should give us all cause for concern. The most frightening part of the Patriot Act is Section 215, which "makes it easier for federal agents to obtain information about people in the course of terrorism investigations." When combined with the broad definition of "domestic terrorism," this leaves things wide open to interpretation and, most dangerously, to abuse for political purposes or other purposes.

The aspects of the Patriot Act that I have cited here represent an erosion of our constitutional freedoms. Operating in secrecy, spying on people and depriving people of their rights are not part of the American way of life. Congress is right to demand a review of this act and to revise it or suspend it in keeping with the Constitution of the United States.

Robert C. Lutes

Temple City

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Whether one trusts the Patriot Act may come down to a question of whether one trusts Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft to enforce the law fairly and in keeping with the U.S. Constitution. If that's the case, then there is absolutely no reason to trust Ashcroft and, therefore, no reason to trust the law.

Clifford Schaffer

Agua Dulce

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