The President takes an oath to defend this County before assuming the duties of office.

Our military takes the same oath which begins, “I, (your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; ... So help me God.”

This sacred responsibility of protecting citizens is not without bounds — namely the bounds of the U.S. Constitution. Washington wrote to the Provisional Congress, “When we assumed the [role of] soldier we did not lay aside the [role of] citizen.”

During his command, even though the British imprisoned their captives often in death-riddled prison ships off Manhattan Island, Washington followed a higher road, caring for the enemy.

On Sept. 11, 2001, an emboldened enemy cowardly killed thousands of innocent citizens at the World Trade Center.

This was an act of terrorism, not an act of war. Congress reacted by passing the Patriot Act. In 2011, President Barack Obama extended several major provisions of the act for four years including allowing:

• “Roving” wiretaps, which authorize listening in on conversations based upon the person and not just a single phone number;

• The FBI to apply for a court order forcing businesses to produce materials that assist in investigations involving terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; and

• Surveillance-searches of “lone wolfs” where the person is suspected of terrorism activities but no connection has yet been made to a foreign government.

There is always a delicate balance between being protected from terrorism and intrusive prying into our private lives. If being protected means we will lose our freedoms, then we would err on the side of freedom.

It is appropriate to give authority for surveillance where a reasonable person can draw the conclusion that terrorist activity is being supported by the surveillance target.

But general “fishing expeditions,” searches and tracking of data upon regular U.S. citizens going about their daily lives, is not appropriate.

Any permission to conduct such searches needs to be done with a warrant and with oversight of an appropriate court that is looking out for our rights — specifically our Fourth Amendment rights.

There has been much talk in the news of late about the National Security Agency collection of telephone metadata. One such report said this is not the same as listening to a person’s phone calls or reading text messages or email but instead it allows the intelligence community to see what numbers are being called by specifically identified numbers, doing so under a court-ordered warrant. If this is the case, we do not object to such activities.

We believe terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants and not as common criminals. Some say, “don’t terrorists have the same rights we have?” No! This is an important point; citizens have rights, but foreign terrorists don’t under our Constitution and they are governed under military jurisdiction.

President Harry S. Truman used nuclear weapons on Japan to save American lives, also saving Japanese lives. The much-debated enhanced interrogation techniques, like waterboarding, that do not cause death or irreparable harm should also be considered — in limited circumstances — on foreign terrorists to save lives, theirs and ours.

There are no easy choices. As Americans we must never surrender our freedoms that have been paid for with the blood of our patriots while we seek protection against terrorism.

When freedom is lost, it is lost forever. We will fight to free others and we will fight to protect our American sovereignty and freedoms.

Bill Sargent, Mark Mansius and John Gay are writing a series of columns on timely issues for today. All three ran in the 14th Congressional District primary.

(1) comment

Curtiss Brown

If you are in favor of repealing the Patriot Act just say so.

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