Friday, December 16, 2005

The Beginning Of The End For Free Speech?

Revised Patriot Act Has Provision That Restricts Freedom of Speech

In the midst of the fight in Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act, a provision in the latest version gives the Secret Service greater authority to restrict freedom of speech at presidential and other high-profile events.

Currently, the Secret Service is authorized to charge suspects with breaching security or disruptive behavior at National Special Security Events, but only if the president or another person under the protection of the service is in attendance, the Washington Post reported. Now, the revised USA Patriot Act allows the Secret Service to prohibit individuals from entering a restricted area during national security special events, even when the president or other high-profile administration officials are not present.

If passed, the bill will give Secret Security the authority to arrest protesters who enter the restricted area of an "event with national significance." For example, anti-war protesters would be arrested at a presidential event even if the president was not there.

This little-know provision in the revised Patriot Act has drawn heavy criticism from civil liberties advocacy groups. The American Civil Liberties Union stated that the provision would lead to even tighter security restrictions at major events like the Super Bowl and the Olympics and subject protesters to harassment from federal law enforcement officers, as reported in the Washington Post.

Timothy H. Edgar, the ACLU's national security counsel, stated, "It's cementing the trend of the Secret Service basically acting to arrest or harass or control dissenters, and now not at presidential events but at other events."

"The right to free speech enshrined in the Constitution includes the right to dissent. This little-known provision in the renewal of the Patriot Act is another example of how the Bush administration is intruding on our personal freedoms," stated Shane Cory, Chief of Staff for the Libertarian Party.

posted by David at 1:47 AM :: Permalink ::