Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

An ugly threat to freedom appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

It appeared twice: With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and again with FBI Director Robert Mueller as both demanded Congress not only reauthorize the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act but expand the ability of the federal to invade the privacy of Americans and ignore the protections of the Constitution.

“Now is not the time for us to be engaging in unilateral disarmament” on the legal weapons now available for fighting terrorism, Gonzales said, adding that the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act have “proven invaluable in fighting terrorism and aiding other investigations.”

The key phrase here is “other investigations.” Although the Patriot Act was rushed into law to fight terrorism, the Justice Department under former Attorney General John Ashcroft and now Gonzales sees nothing wrong with using the act to go after anybody for any perceived crime. Ashcroft, a religious zealot, deployed the powers of the Act in several unsuccessful attempts to prosecute American citizens for selling dirty books and videos.

“It’s important that these authorities remain available,” Gonzales added.

For what? To spy on any and all Americans for any and all perceived crimes? This is the same Alberto Gonzales who said, while still serving as White House Counsel, the “Constitution is an outdated document.”

The current Patriot Act already gives the government power to wiretap at will, snoop into private travel and financial records and monitor the day-to-day activities of virtually any American citizen.  But FBI Director Mueller says that’s not enough.  He wants the powers expanded.

“Experience has taught the FBI that there are no neat dividing lines that distinguish criminal, terrorist and foreign intelligence activity,” Mueller said in his prepared testimony. So Mueller wants to blur the lines even more by giving his agency the power to snoop into any American’s records without a judge’s approval.

The widespread abuses of the Patriot Act have created an unusual coalition of opponents – diverse organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Conservative Union. When these two diverse, politically-opposite groups band together to fight something it should send warning signals coast-to-coast in a heartbeat.

But those warnings fall on deaf ears when they reach 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush doesn’t care one goddamn bit about the Constitution or an American’s right to privacy, due process or other protections under the law.

The law is something these power-mad despots ignore when it runs counter to their fascist ways. They proved that with their lame-brained attempt to circumvent the law in the Terry Schiavo debacle and now they want to scrap the law altogether by expanding their police-state powers under the USA Patriot Act.

Some members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, agree and support legislation to scale back the Constitution-defying provisions of the Patriot Act.

“Cooler heads can now see that the Patriot Act went too far, too fast and that it must be brought back in line with the Constitution,” says Gregory Nojeim, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office.

Perhaps. But Bush says he will veto any legislation that rolls back the Patriot Act and Congress is still controlled by a gang of Republican thugs who put loyalty to their party above loyalty to their country.

So maybe it’s too late.