Patriot Act defended and criticized - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Patriot Act defended and criticized

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August 21, 2003

Albany -- The Patriot Act is a controversial law that gives the Justice Department new broad powers to combat terrorism. Passed by Congress and the Senate with overwhelming majorities, the Patriot Act has helped the Justice Department crack down on terrorist cells operating in the United States.

But many people think the Act gives law enforcement too much power, and could take away civil liberties of Americans.

The Patriot Act was passed 6 weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks on America. Recently the over 200 page law itself has come under attack, from civil libertarians who think it is an infringement on American rights. The Attorney General has mobilized his 94 U.S. Attorneys to push for support of the anti terrorism bill.

The Middle District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Maxwell Wood, says he feels the Patriot Act has made America safer. Wood said "Most of our laws prior to this were for local criminals who were not going to go off to a foreign country if we weren't able to prosecute them. So it's an adaptation of the law to technology is a big part of what we are doing."

Albany Attorney Jim Finkelstein does not agree. He thinks the Patriot Act gives law enforcement too much power to pry into your private affairs. Finkelstein said "to find out what books we've have purchased at the book store or checked out at the library. What videos we have rented. And not only that, but to make it a crime for the librarian or the book store clerk to tell the person whose privacy was invaded that the government was checking up on them."

U.S. Attorney Wood says the Patriot Act has helped law enforcement keep up with modern technology.Wood said "It was time for a change, adapting law enforcement techniques to modern technology. We learned the terrorist element in our country and our country has learned to master technology better than we had at the time."

Jim Finkelstein says he will ask the County Commission to give employees permission to not cooperate with the Feds using the Patriot Act to investigate people.

posted at 4:05 PM by jimw@walb.com