Patriot Act Overreaching

My name is Adele Welty. I am the mother of Firefighter Timothy Welty, FDNY Squad 288, lost in the line of duty on September 11th at the World Trade Center. I am also a member of Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of 9/11 families who have channeled our grief into action for peace and justice.

I asked to come here today to support the bill being introduced by Congressman Kucinich which would roll back certain sections of the Patriot Act that I believe pose a serious threat to the exercise of our Constitutional rights, most particularly our rights to Due Process of Law, the right to privacy and unwarranted search and seizure and our right to petition the government in those instances where we believe the government’s actions are contrary to our best interests. Although some sections of the Act were written before 9/11, the Congress passed the Patriot Act just after the attacks without debate over its consequences, during a time of extreme anxiety over our safety and deep emotional stress over our losses. I do not want my son’s death used again, as it was to scare this country into war, for the purpose of concentrating power in the hands of this administration in ways that will compromise our liberty interests.

In recent statements, the Attorney General has said that those who raise the specter of loss of liberty are aiding terrorists. And under the Patriot Act, he has the discretion to decide who will be labeled a terrorist, including those who are exercising their constitutional right to protest government actions. Those so designated may be arrested and held without judicial oversight, without benefit of counsel, without a hearing before an impartial judge and jury, without even knowing what charges are being leveled against them and without the opportunity to present evidence or witnesses on their behalf. This is not Due Process of Law and is contrary to everything our country stands for, contrary to our way of life that terrorists are trying to destroy.

I have no doubt that Mr. Ashcroft is an honorable man who is vigorously pursuing his duty to search out terrorists and make this country a safer place. But I believe that the Patriot Act is an overreaching attempt to rectify the intelligence failures prior to 9/11. There is no doubt we must find the terrorists wherever they are hiding, and try them in a court of law. But we must continue to be a nation that abides by the rule of law so carefully crafted in our Constitution, refined by the amendments and repeatedly clarified by case law to protect our freedom, the freedom that tens of thousands of American soldiers have died to maintain, a way of life that distinguishes us from those countries whose regimes we wish to change.

The people of this country need to wake up and take notice that their civil liberties are being eroded before it is too late, before our basic freedom is so compromised that we will be hard pressed to win it back. Congressman Kucinich is issuing the wake up call. It is our responsibility to respond.

This speech was given at a press conference September 24, 2003 in support of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Legislation to Repeal Sections of USA PATRIOT Act.

Filed in: Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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