MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 4, 2012

Patriot Act at issue in 2nd District

Candidates trade barbs over anti-terror law

Candidates vying for U.S. Rep. Dan Boren’s congressional seat traded barbs about the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law passed immediately after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Democratic nominee Rob Wallace attacked his Republican opponent for describing the law as one of the “stupidest bills” ever passed. The former prosecutor said opposition to the law puts national security and public safety at risk.

During a candidate forum earlier this year in Claremore, GOP contender Markwayne Mullin railed against lawmakers worried more about re-election than doing the right thing. The issue is one Mullin, who owns a Broken Arrow-based plumbing services company, has brought up since he announced his candidacy.

“When we get some of these stupidest bills passed it’s because it is the flavor of the month, because that is the way everyone is going,” Mullin said during the forum. “That is why we have stuff like the Patriot Act. That is why we have stuff like No Child Left Behind.”

Mullin went on to say the Patriot Act, which has drawn flak from some quarters for curtailing civil liberties and privacy, “doesn’t line up with the constitution. He went on to denounce those who toe the party line for political gain, saying the candidates Oklahoma needs to elect are “those who are willing to fire themselves for doing something right.”

Wallace, who coordinated the organized crime unit while working as a federal prosecutor, said the Patriot Act was an essential tool he used to “catch and prosecute Mexican drug dealers” entering the country illegally.

“It is unbelievable Mullin would oppose the Patriot Act, a law that protects us from terrorism,” Wallace said in a media release. “Anyone who opposes the Patriot Act, opposes the safety of our country and puts our families at risk of a terrorist attack.”

Proponents of the Patriot Act cite the fact there has been no terrorist attacks on domestic soil since the law was passed as a major selling point. They also credit the law’s provisions for the death of Osama bin Laden.

Michael G. Fulks, who is competing for Boren’s seat as an independent, said the Patriot Act encroaches upon civil liberties and infringes upon the constitutional provisions designed to protect them. Fulks said he considers “much of the Patriot Act to be an over-extension of government power and an unconstitutional attack on personal freedoms.”

“I am a firm believer in the Bill of Rights and will work to preserve them,” Fulks said. “At the same time, I understand the need of investigative forces to have tools that allow them to follow evidence trails with speed and would explore expediting the process by which lawful warrants are issued.”

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2011, when three provisions of the act were extended, found Americans remained divided on the issue. Forty-two percent of those polled said the act provides necessary tools to fight terrorism while 34 percent said it goes too far. Both houses of Congress similarly were divided when three key provisions were extended parts of the act set to expire last year. Those provisions include the use of roving wiretaps, so-called library provisions that authorizes investigations of a broad range of personal material, and lone wolf provisions that allow the investigation of foreigners who have no known ties to terrorist groups.

Tim Ross, Mullin’s campaign manager, described Wallace’s most recent attack as another example of a lawyer “twisting words in order to gain a political advantage.”

“The truth is Markwayne doesn’t agree with all parts of the Patriot Act, but he strongly supports the efforts that have helped our national security team keep us safer from terrorists,” Ross said, without providing details of what those parts might be. “Instead of constantly attacking and running a negative campaign, maybe Mr. Wallace should try telling voters how he feels about certain issues like repealing ObamaCare, which he hasn’t taken a stand on.”

Kyle Gott, Wallace’s campaign manager, said Mullin’s positions “on immigration and security are dangerous and disturbing.”

“He’s weak on immigration and anti-terrorism measures,” Gott said. “We should all be scared of such reckless policy views.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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