Hatch-et Job 

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If you’re even slightly left of the political spectrum, lobbing criticisms at Utah’s senior senator—and, with almost 30 years in office, we do mean senior—is a lot like trimming a stout maple tree with sewing shears. Given Orrin Hatch’s popularity, you’re cutting away at nothing.

Still, given his usual staid, yet polite, stand last week against anyone with the audacity to question the Patriot Act, certain points must be made. And given recent revelations surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq war, there are enough points for at least half a dozen political pincushions.

Even for those who didn’t attend the Senator’s presentation at the University of Utah College of Law, news reports of the event came across as vintage Hatch. He’ll hear the concerns of the people regarding search, wiretap and other provisions of the Patriot Act. But he’s not interested in changing his mind. “Show me,” he said, in effect, “one concrete abuse of the Act.”

Well, aside from the more than 40 cases the ACLU has filed alleging civil-rights abuses since 9/11, the funny thing about the Patriot Act is that it’s often difficult to get any read about what’s currently being carried out in its name. Take Utah’s ill-fated flirtation with the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) for example. Set up with Gov. Mike Leavitt’s approval, but without clearance from state lawmakers (let alone the public), it had the power to generate a list of potential terrorists 120,000-people long. As a citizen member of the MATRIX review committee pointed out, only 20 of those people made the FBI sweat. MATRIX is gone, for now, but plenty of “enemy combatants” remain in Guantanamo Bay, clueless of what they’re charged with, and with no hearing in sight. That’s the sort of “justice” usually reserved for Third World dictatorships.

Abuses? Hatch’s eyes are shut. We are, after all, talking about a man with curious ways of dealing with terrorism. Cast back to the Iran-Contra affair of 1986. With Lebanon home to 241 dead Marines and Americans held hostage, President Reagan vowed not to deal with terrorists. Lt. Col. Oliver North had different ideas, selling 1,500 missiles to “terrorist” Iran, and then diverting money to Latin America’s Contras, who in turn waged their own brand of terrorism against the people of Nicaragua. In a letter to Nancy Reagan, Hatch called North “one of the most loyal and courageous soldiers of this Administration, right or wrong.”

Reagan fired North, but Hatch loved the man in uniform, who had no qualms about dealing with terrorists face-to-face. Today, Hatch seems comfortable with an Act that operates on the premise that we must compromise our freedoms in order to protect them. And please answer this: If report after report states that the 9/11 attacks could easily have been prevented with better cooperation between the FBI and CIA, and with tighter security measures by the FAA, what need have we of the Patriot Act at all?

The national and international game plan against terrorism fares no better. Check out Jason Vest’s story detailing the Coalition Provisional Authority’s dismal record in Iraq. It’s available on our Website at www.slweekly.com/editorial/2004/feat_2004-04-22.cfm. Here’s another point: If both journalist Bob Woodward and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill attest that Bush had war designs on Iraq before 9/11, then what does this say about the current “war on terror”?

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