Dissecting The Patriot Act And All That It Contains
As we all have had it imprinted in our minds, some three thousand people were brutally killed on September 11, 2001 in the worst terrorist attacks ever perpetrated within our country. But the destruction of buildings, commercial jets, and human lives may not have been the only things we lost that day. A mere six and a half weeks after 9/11, a 345-page piece of legislation fell into the laps of all 535 members of both the House and Senate, and it was passed into law--without a single member in either chamber reading a page of it! That legislation was the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, or USA-Patriot Act. But as producer Robert Greenwald and director Nonny De La Pena tell us in the 2004 documentary UNCONSTITUTIONAL: THE WAR ON OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES, the Patriot Act is not about either uniting or strengthening America, nor is it truly patriotic--in fact, it is quite the opposite.
Part of Greenwald's "UN" trilogy about the malfeasances of the Bush administration (a troika that includes UNCOVERED: THE WAR IN IRAQ, and UNPRECEDENTED: THE 2000 ELECTION), UNCONSTITUTIONAL focuses squarely on what history will likely decree as the fulcrum of George W. Bush's eight-year term as President, the Patriot Act. What we learn over the course of its 68 minute running time, however, is something that we thought we'd see only in the totalitarian governments of the past: a curbing of basic civil rights, and a specific targeting of those with an Islamic background, done specifically because the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated by Islamic extremists--despite the fact that the vast majority of the Islamic population in America wants nothing to do with political terrorism of any kind. And lest anyone think that this is just another "bleeding heart liberal" tract against the Bush cabal, the film features interviews from people with diverse political ideologies, notably very liberal Massachusetts congressman Barney Frank, and former Georgia congressman and noted far-right winger Bob Barr--both of whom decry what the Patriot Act has done. And we are also witness as to how the Patriot Act has led to the revival of sinister government surveillance activities against "our enemies" that we thought had long since been buried with Watergate, but which, because of our silent consent to the Bush Administration's wishes, have crept into our lives once more. And all of this has been draped in the American flag, and crafted for the purposes of National Security--a fairly nebulous term even during the best of times, and a dangerous, sinister, and false thing in our post-9/11 world.
UNCONSTITUTIONAL makes its point, in a low-key, matter-of-fact way, that the alleged success of the Patriot Act is, in fact, an illusion. Neither our security nor more importantly our liberty are in any way guaranteed or safeguarded by this heinous diktat. And unless we make it a point to put this false sense of security on the ash heap of history, we will lose not only the War On Terror but also everything about America that makes us truly strong--our freedom.
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