Is USA Patriot Act that different?
Dennis Jett ("Dirty wars cast shadow on virtues of Patriot Act," Opinion, Sept. 29) makes quite a leap trying to create a moral equivalence between "political violence" in Peru, Chile, and Argentina and the attempt by Attorney General John Ashcroft to apply longstanding and legitimate law enforcement techniques to the war on terror via the Patriot Act. The act's so-called "sneak and peek" provision extends to terrorism investigations what has been longstanding practice in criminal ones. After demonstrating probable cause to a federal judge, the government has long had the authority to delay notification of searches in cases where immediate notification might endanger witnesses, or cause the suspect to flee or evidence to be destroyed.
Prior to the Patriot Act, grand juries had the power to issue subpoenas to libraries and bookstores. In the Unabomber investigation, federal grand juries subpoenaed library records at four universities and a public library to determine who checked out the books cited in the "Unabomber Manifesto." Section 215 of the Patriot Act makes this investigative tool available for terrorism investigations.
Several of the Sept. 11 hijackers used public library computers to communicate with one another and other terrorist allies. A public library shouldn't be a sanctuary for terrorists. The Constitution guarantees our civil liberties but it is not a suicide pact. The Patriot Act does not subvert it or jeopardize our rights.
Daniel John Sobieski
Thank you so much for running Pat Holt's Oct. 2 Opinion, "Driving dangerously with the Patriot Act." It's lovely to see members of the media stand up against some of the more insidious ways in which Ashcroft and the Bush administration have used the nation's pain and fear over 9/11 to further their agendas, thus handing victory over to the terrorists by crippling our rights.
Ashcroft justifies the Patriot Act by saying the sweeping powers make it easier to prosecute terrorists. That is certainly true. But remember that dictators trample rights not because they enjoy it, but because it's easier than protecting them when trying to achieve some other goal.
Sometimes the burden of an enlightened democracy is to do things the hard way - because it's the right way. Protecting our rights and principles is more important than making Ashcroft's job a little easier.
Your story about the human toll of the war in Iraq should be required reading for those members of Congress who disagree with The American Legion's position that funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system should be a mandatory item within the federal budget ("Iraq war's human toll could be felt for decades," Oct. 1). America should be no less committed to rebuilding the lives of its veterans than it is to rebuilding a democratized Iraq.
John A. Brieden III
National Commander, The American Legion
Regarding your Oct. 2 article "Research links more African AIDS cases to needles": When I was in Accra, the capital of Ghana, I used to go to a government clinic, and I remember sharing one needle with about five different people. One solution drawn from a bottle of a penicillin into a syringe would be used to inject about two to three people. I thought that was quite normal, until I came to the US and realized they were wrong and I was lucky. So this article may be right.
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