The Patriot Act is your friend


Kim Zetter at Wired News interviews Viet Dinh, the Vietnamese-born author of the USA Patriot Act. Dinh has been called a "political pit bull" and "a foot soldier" for Attorney General John Ashcroft. But the 36-year-old creator of the hotly contested USAPA prefers to be called an "attendant of freedom."In May 2001, Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown University, was tapped by the Justice Department to work for two years as an assistant attorney general, working primarily on judicial nominations for the department. But three months later the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and Dinh was drafted to work on the USA Patriot Act, a bill that would give the government some of its most controversial surveillance powers. The bill, coupled with the government's subsequent treatment of immigrants and native-born citizens, prompted critics to charge the administration with overthrowing "800 years of democratic tradition."

Read Dinh's defense of his inflammatory brainchild.


KIM ZETTER'S "INTERVIEW" WITH Patriot Act author Viet Dinh for Wired News begins by calling the Georgetown University law professor names ("Viet Dinh has been called a 'political pit bull' and 'a foot soldier' for Attorney General John Ashcroft"), and then just goes down hill from there. The title of the piece ("The Patriot Act Is Your Friend") accurately reflects the bias and hostility of Zetter's article, in which Dihn is more cross-examined than interviewed. A sampling of Dinh's responses to Zetter's questions will give the reader some sense of the disgraceful grilling to which Zetter subjected him:

  • "I did not intend any of these provisions, nor did Congress intend the provisions, to be having such wide-sweeping effect that your characterization would make it out to be. I think that is a fundamental mischaracterization of both the meaning, the effect and the operation of the law and the interpretation of the law."
  • "I think it is very easy to employ sweeping rhetoric and personal denunciations. I think it is much harder to back it up with facts and concrete examples. I seek to engage in this conversation by giving as much facts as I can and letting the efforts of the Department of Justice, the administration and my own to be judged by the people, by history and by eternity."
  • "If indeed that is your fear or that is your perception then engage in the democratic process. Back up your argument, back up your belief with facts, marshal evidence in order to convince those who are engaged in the process of governance."

One question from Zetter includes a link to an earlier, no less biased piece by the interviewer ("ACLU Chief Assails Patriot Spin"; see multipage version), making it crystal clear that the goal of the piece is not to gain information from Dihn, but rather to indict and convict him before the reader. However, the low point in the "interview" must certainly be Zetter's asking Dinh,

Some Asian Americans have accused you of dishonoring your own struggle and background as a refugee and immigrant. What do you say to charges that the law you wrote is hostile to immigrants and noncitizens?

That Zetter presumes to pose such an inflamatory and frankly racist question to a university professor whom he has asked to sit for an interview is indication enough of the depths to which much "journalistic" coverage of the Patriot Act has now sunk.

What's wrong with asking the question? Some people do view the Patriot Act in that light and he's being asked to respond to the question. Is he only supposed to be asked fluff questions? It sounds like you are employing a conservative version of political correctness!!

Zetter's article is a disgraceful hit-piece. There's a lot of room between "fluff questions" and a hatchet-job. ....And if an expectation of journalistic integrity and basic fairness is conservative PC, then so be it.

Make that "she" for Kim Zetter. My apologies.

It is not a hit piece or a hatchet job. Zetter just asked hard questions. Your complaint that she opened the piece by calling what's his face a bunch of names is an egregious misrepresentation. She very correctly reported the fact that he had been called those things by other people and then reported that he saw himself as an attendant on freedom. In one small way, this illustrates the wide range of opinions and the vast contention surrounding the USA PATRIOT Act. Your failure to understand these things is your problem, not Zetter's.

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