The Patriot Act harms civil liberties
- Strongly Support means you believe:
The Patriot Act is unpatriotic.
The terrorists are winning because they have forced us to limit our Constitutional civil rights.
We should not give up our liberties in exchange for security, because if we do we will end up with neither.
- Support means you believe:
Homeland security needs should be balanced with respect for civil rights, and the Patriot Act goes too far.
The sunset clause (automatic phaseout) should apply to all aspects so that the Patriot Act automatically disappears when the War on Terror is ended.
Some provisions should be repealed immediately, because they grant too much power to the federal government and restrict our Constitutional rights too much.
- Oppose means you believe:
To win the War on Terror, we need powerful tools to fight a new and powerful enemy.
Hiding behind "civil rights" arguments coddles the terrorists and encourages them to strike again.
We need to counter-attack the terrorists with financial weapons and legalistic weapons as well as military weapons.
- Strongly Oppose means you believe:
The president should be granted all the means necessary to fight the War on Terror.
When dealing with terrorists who want to destroy our country, stretching the definitions of torture and the Geneva Convention is necessary.
Remember the victims of 9/11 first, and focus on preventing another 9/11 rather than focusing on civil rights of terrorists.
This question is looking for your views on balancing the War on Terror with the protection of civil liberties. However you answer the above question would be similar to your response to these statements:
How do you decide between "Support" and "Strongly Support" when you agree with both the descriptions above? (Or between "Oppose" and "Strongly Oppose").
The strong positions are generally based on matters of PRINCIPLES where the regular support and oppose positions are based on PRACTICAL matters.
If you answer "No Opinion," this question is not counted in the VoteMatch answers for any candidate.
If you give a general answer of Support vs. Oppose, VoteMatch can more accurately match a candidate with your stand.
Don't worry so much about getting the strength of your answer exactly refined, or to think too hard about the exact wording of the question -- like candidates!
- Domestic spying is unconstitutional.
- Guantanamo Bay's terrorist prison system should be shut down.
- Habeus Corpus (the right to a hearing) should be respected, even for terrorist suspects.
- The Patriot Act invests too much power in a centralized Executive.
- The Geneva Convention defines torture, and US actions must follow those international rules.
- Strongly Support means you believe in the principle that the Patriot Act violates constitutional rights.
- Support means you believe that for practical reasons, the patriot Act goes too far.
- Oppose means you believe that for practical reasons, the Patriot Act is necessary, but might be amended over time as needed.
- Strongly Oppose means you believe in the principle of a strong Presidency as the best means to fight the War on Terror.
The PATRIOT Act
- The PATRIOT Act is a new topic in our VoteMatch quiz as of the 2008 election. It encompasses an enormous number of controversial civil rights issues, from habeas corpus restrictions through the right to privacy. Defense-related aspects of the PATRIOT Act are covered under our Homeland Security section.
- The USA PATRIOT Act was first passed in Oct. 2001 as a response to 9/11. It was reauthorized by Congress in 2005. The title is an acronym for ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.’
- Habeas corpus: The ‘Writ of habeas corpus’ means all people have the right to not be held indefinitely by a government. The Latin term means ‘you have the body’, i.e., that when the government is holding a person, that person can demand a hearing on why they are being held. Habeas corpus is older than the Constitution -- it was part of English Common Law back to the 12th century, and forms a key basis of the legal underpinning of the US Constitution. Critics of the PATRIOT Act claim that Pres. Bush has suspended habeas corpus illegally (by holding prisoners in Guantanamo, e.g.); the Consitution specifies that habeas can only be suspended for civil war or insurrection.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 set up a system of ‘FISA Courts’ which would decide when it was ok for the federal government to spy on people -- by granting surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the US. Opponents claim that the FISA courts are sufficient safeguards and that Pres. Bush is conducting ‘warrantless surveillance’ by avoiding FISA.
- Secret wiretapping: The
Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 established restrictions on unauthorized government access to private electronic communications, such as email or phone calls. The PATRIOT Act weakened those restrictions, which opponents say allows the government to secretly record email and phone conversations by US citizens. An additional controversy comes from requiring electronic service providers, such as phone companies and email providers, to supply the federal government with customer records without telling the customers.
- Secret Renditions: Since 9/11, the CIA has flying captured terrorist suspects from one country to another for detention and interrogation, a practice known as ‘rendition’. For several years, the rendition flights were secret, and denied by the CIA and the Bush Administration. In Nov. 2007, under mounting evidence about the use of European airfields for this purpose, the CIA and Bush Administration admitted the use of secret renditions, including the explicit involvement of several European governments. The ultimate destination of rendition flights is usually Guantanamo prison. The Bush Administration justifies the practice as necessary for the War on Terror.
- Guantanamo: Guantanamo Bay is a US enclave in Cuba, run by the US military (nicknamed ‘Gitmo’). Beginning in late 2001, the US military has used the base to hold prisoners ca
ptured in Afghanistan and Iraq. The prisoners are considered ‘enemy combatants’ and hence not subject to US law, and since they are outside the United States, their legal status has always been ambiguous. In early 2008, the first military tribunals were held to determine these prisoners' status.
- Waterboarding: The US Constitution forbids torture, and the 2008 candidates argue about whether waterboarding constitutes torture, and whether torture is allowed in Guantanamo or other prisons outside the US. Waterboarding simulates drowning, and has been used since the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century as a form of coercing prisoner testimony. The political controversy around waterboarding was the key topic of Attorney General Michael Mukasey's November 2007 confirmation hearings, which led to an official admission that the US had indeed used the method.
‘One China’ Policy
The US, the ROC, and the PRC agreed in 1972 to the ‘One China’ policy, under which all parties abide by the fiction that China is one country currently under two governments but awaiting eventual reunification.
China is formally known as ‘The People’s Republic of China’, or ‘PRC.’ The PRC is home to nearly a billion and a half people, over 20% of the world’s population. The PRC has been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party since 1949.
Taiwan is known as ‘The Republic of China’ or ‘ROC.’ Taiwan is an island off the coast of the PRC, and has a democratically elected government.
Taiwan is home to 21 million people, but its economy is comparable in size to the PRC.
Taiwan split from the PRC during the Communist Revolution, when the former government was driven off the mainland by the Communists.
The US has promised to defend Taiwan against an invasion from China. China has promised to invade if Taiwan declares independence, most recently in July 1999 when Taiwan's President declared the ‘One China’ policy a fiction.
The current US policy is called ‘strategic ambiguity’: we are intentionally unclear on what would provoke US intervention, so that neither China nor Taiwan will act rashly.
President Bush removed some of the ambiguity in April 2001, by declarnig that the US would unambiguously defend Taiwan with military force in the case of a Chinese invasion.
The Cox Report
A House of Representatives Committee chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox released a National Security report in May 1999 known as the ‘Cox Report.’
The report detailed how the Chinese government spied on US nuclear facilities over the last two decades and as a result was able to improve their nuclear capabilities.
A secret version of the report was released to President Clinton in January 1999.
The candidates’ views on the Cox Report focus on what should be done to prevent further Chinese spying, and on what the government should do about past Chinese spying.
‘MFN’ means that China is treated in our trade relations in the same manner as we treat our ‘Most Favored Nations’ as trading partners.
Granting China MFN status means that we have open trade with them.
Congress reviews MFN status annually to decide if China should be granted MFN status for the next year.
Granting MFN status in recent years has been tied to the improvement of China’s human rights record. Talks are held between the US and the PRC to decide which human rights violations will be addressed, and then MFN status is granted.
The term ‘MFN’ has been replaced this year by ‘Normal Trading Relations’, abbreviated ‘NTR’, which means the same thing.
The US House of Representatives voted in May 2000 to grant China ‘Permanent NTR’ status, ending the annual debate.
The World Trade Organization is the international agency which defines the rules of global trade between nations. Its purpose is to ensure free trade.
Its 135 member nations, including the US and most other large economies, agree to keep import tariffs below specified levels when applied to other WTO members.
China is seeking membership in the WTO because that would ensure China of free trade with other WTO members. If granted WTO membership, China would no longer be subject to its annual MFN review.
But China would also have to abide by the WTO trade rules themselves, which would mean lowering their import tariffs against US goods.
The Senate overwhelmingly (83-15) voted for PNTR for China in September 2000 and President Clinton signed it into law. This law included the US's agreement for China's entry into the WTO.
- ‘Defend Taiwan’ by increasing military aid, or by reducing US strategic ambiguity, or by disavowing the ‘One China’ policy, is a buzzword that implies an anti-China stance.
- Mentioning ‘Tibet’, ‘Xinjiang’, ‘Tiananmen’, when discussing China implies that one would restrict trade with China on human rights grounds.
- ‘Tibet’ is the Buddhist province (bordering Nepal and India), home of the exiled Dalai Lama, where the Chinese invaded in 1959, and have been putting down Buddhist uprisings since.
- ‘Xinjiang’ is the Islamic province in the west of China (bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Islamic former Soviet republics), known to Muslims as Uighurstan or East Turkestan, where the Chinese have been putting down uprisings even more severley and secretively than in Tibet.
- ‘Tiananmen’ refers to the massacre in Tiananmen Square (central Beijing) on June 4, 1989, where thousands of protestors demanding democracy and an open society were killed by the Chinese army.
- ‘Being tough’ on China implies a desire to limit trade with China. ‘Being tough’ on China takes different forms each year: in 1999, one would say ‘Heed the Cox Report’; in 2000, ‘Crack down on Chinese spies’; in 2001, ‘Demand our spy plane back.’
- Often, trade with Vietnam is a proxy for one's views on trade with China. One usually supports or opposes open trade with Vietnam on the same grounds that one does so with China, except without the geopolitical underpinning.