Tuesday, June 14, 2005

US Patriot Act Part Deux?

Last Thursday in Columbus OH, President Bush continued in earnest his campaign for renewing the US Patriot Act. In that speech to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Bush made the following two claims:
''The Patriot Act closed dangerous gaps in America's law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, gaps the terrorists exploited when they attacked us on September the 11th.

"Terrorist threats against us will not expire at the end of the year and neither should the protections of the Patriot Act.
In a speech the next day at the National Counterterrorism Center outside Washington, Bush continued to overstate the successes of the US Patriot Act:
One of the most important tools to combat terror is the Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act has helped save American lives and it has protected American liberties. For the sake of our national security, the United States Congress needs to renew all the provisions of the Patriot Act and, this time, Congress needs to make those provisions permanent.
Not only do none of these statements refer to the actual sunset provisions set to expire in the Act (of which law enforcement insisted were rarely used if at all), the administration is again trying to claim success where none is readily apparent. Rejecting the excuse that "the terrorist only need to be right once; we need to be right 100% of the time", there is staggering very little terrorist prosecution under the US Patriot Act and no convictions at all. The only assurances the public is given are the kind Bush epitomizes: general "don't worry about us - you're safe" arguments.

What information do we have about the US Patriot Act and its "successes"?

Well, remember those "dangerous gaps in America's law enforcement and intelligence capabilities"? Neither the US Patriot Act, nor the 9/11 Commission reforms have changed anything, except to make operational procedures possibly worse. According to USA Today:
The U.S. government's rushed effort to reorganize after the 9/11 attacks has resulted in overlapping layers of bureaucracy, no single point of accountability and fuzzy lines of responsibility among the agencies that are combating terrorism, a former top CIA official said Monday.
The main issues in the FBI include lack of responsibility management, high turnover (the average time in the FBI for an agent is 15 months!), and difficulties in attracting skilled analysts who understand Arabic and Muslim traditions.

What about "saving American lives" and "protecting American liberties"?

In September 2004, Section 505 of the US Patriot Act was ruled unconstitutional (challenging the FBI's use of a type of administrative subpoena known as a national security letter to ISPs), while Section 805 was ruled "vague and in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments" in regards to the definition of "expert advice or assistance" to terrorists. As a matter of fact, many provisions of the US Patriot Act are being used in non-terrorism cases, including those involving drug trafficking, prostitution and even insider trading.

What about the bipartisan support of the new Domestic Security Enhancement Act (US Patriot Act Part II) which expands many of the wire-tapping provisions of the original Patriot Act?
Now, right-leaning groups such as the American Conservative Union, the Eagle Forum and Gun Owners of America say they are concerned that American citizens could also be victimized by what they say are unconstitutional law enforcement powers allowed by the Patriot and the enhancement act.The heart of the issue, according to conservatives, liberals and constitutional scholars, is the effect that USA Patriot has already had on issues of probable cause and due process, and that both of those concepts would be further eroded with the so-called Patriot II Act.
The issue is simple. The US Patriot Act is needed to combat terrorism, but in its present form it creates more loopholes than it closes. The so-called SAFE Act (SECURITY AND FREEDOM ENSURED ACT (S. 1709)) attempts to reform the following:
Limits the use of “John Doe roving” wiretaps. SAFE § 2 amends 50 U.S.C. 1805 to ensure that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap orders meet the 4th Amendment’s “particularity” requirement and clearly limit the scope of the wiretap. “Roving” wiretap orders that do not specify the facility or location to be tapped must at least identify the person whose communications are targeted, while “John Doe” wiretap orders that do not specify the targeted person must at least identify the facility or location to be tapped.

Limits the use of secret “sneak & peek” searches. SAFE § 3 amends 18 U.S.C. 3103a to codify pre-PATRIOT standards for allowing delayed notice of a government search, limiting secret searches to those situations where notice would endanger life or limb, result in flight from prosecution, or result in evidence destruction/tampering.

Protects Americans’ sensitive, personal information from government access without justification. SAFE § 4 amends FISA to protect private records held by third parties. SAFE restores the pre-PATRIOT requirement that there exist specific and articulable facts giving reason to believe that the party whose records are sought is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, such as a spy or an international terrorist, before a court order for the records is issued.

Prevents the government from accessing library records without judicial approval. SAFE § 5 amends 18 U.S.C. 2709 to prevent the use of “National Security Letters” to obtain library records. National Security Letters are administrative subpoenas that are issued directly by the Justice Department without any judicial oversight.

Expands PATRIOT’s sunset provision, such that the following PATRIOT sections will expire on December 31, 2005:

§ 213. Authority for delaying notice of the execution of a warrant.
§ 216. Modification of authorities relating to use of pen registers and trap and trace devices.
§ 219. Single-jurisdiction search warrants for terrorism.
§ 505. Miscellaneous national security authorities.
Protect our US Liberties and support the SAFE Act. Let Congress know that that there are some Americans that want to keep our freedoms in tact.


At 10:36 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Lefty Jones said...

The Safe Act is new to me.....
I'm already a huge fan.
Consider me one convinced soul in a sea of darkness.


Post a Comment

<< Home