Secret meetings, over-expansions of Law Enforcement's power, and the erosion of the Fourth Amendment?

The Patriot Act was–allegedly–supposed to aid law enforcement in rounding up suspected terrorist cells here in the United States. Not go on fishing expeditions in libraries because a student needed to check out a Koran for an assignment, harass and abuse Islamic and Arab-Americans who an overwhelming majority are not terrorists–far from it, or violate women’s medical privacy because they may have had abortions. Well some lawmakers on the Hill (and President Dubya Bush) want to expand those “zero-productive, ineffective against terrorism, but wonderful when terrorizing every day citizens” privileges that have been given to law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. But what’s with all the secrecy surrounding the deliberations on the fate of the Patriot Act? Surely we the citizenry have a right to know which of our liberties will be compromised or altogether squashed if the Patriot Act is expanded.

Senate Panel Considering Patriot Act Expansion Bill in Secret; ACLU Says Fixes, Not Expansions, Are Needed

WASHINGTON – The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is meeting today behind closed doors to conclude secret deliberations on legislation designed to reauthorize – and expand – the Patriot Act. The American Civil Liberties Union denounced the secretive process, and said lawmakers should be reforming, not expanding, the most extreme parts of the Patriot Act. The proposed bill would make the Patriot Act’s most controversial provisions permanent, and further expand it by allowing FBI agents to issue their own search orders with no court approval.

“When lawmakers seek to rewrite our Fourth Amendment rights, they should at least have the gumption to do so in public,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “In the past few days, thousands of concerned Americans have called on lawmakers in Washington to reject this misguided – and secretive – approach.”

“Americans have a reasonable expectation that their federal government will not gather records about their health, their wealth and the transactions of their daily life without probable cause of a crime and without a court order,” Graves added. “We can give law enforcement the tools they need to protect us without sidestepping our Constitution’s fundamental checks and balances.”

The bill would give the FBI “administrative subpoena” authority, permitting the bureau to write and approve its own search orders for any tangible thing held by a third party deemed relevant to an intelligence investigation, without prior judicial approval. This unilateral power would let agents seize personal records from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other businesses without any specific facts connecting those records to any criminal activity or a foreign agent. This would drastically undermine the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The proposal would also remove one of the few safeguards in place for intelligence investigations. Currently, business records of an American cannot be demanded “solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.” The proposed legislation would delete this restriction and allow records to be sought based on constitutionally protected activity as long as the investigation as a whole is not based solely on constitutionally protected activity.

Proponents of that power claim that this would give the FBI the same power used by government agencies administering federal programs, like Medicare. But these agencies do not have at their disposal, as does the FBI, other tools like grand jury subpoenas or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act search orders. The ACLU noted that Congress has continuously denied this power, long sought for by the FBI, for good reasons. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a member of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, expressed concerns that this expanded power would give the FBI “carte blanche” to go on “fishing expeditions” without checks against abuse.

The proposal would also give the FBI broad new powers to track people’s mail in intelligence inquiries. It would force postal workers to disclose the name, address and other information appearing on envelopes delivered to or from people designated by the FBI, without any meaningful protections or oversight. That drastic proposal has drawn criticism from within the service itself, including its chief privacy officer.

“The Patriot Act went too far, too fast – the current proposal would go even farther in the trampling of our rights,” Graves said. “Now is the time for Congress to consider well-thought out modifications to the Patriot Act, like the bipartisan SAFE Act, that will preserve both our security and our liberty. Lawmakers must reject this unneeded power grab.”

Libraries, women who’ve had abortions, and every single Islamic and Arab-American beware! Thanks Ashcroft, for this legacy in law enforcement and justice.

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10 Responses to Secret meetings, over-expansions of Law Enforcement's power, and the erosion of the Fourth Amendment?

  1. 1
    ScottM says:

    Thanks for passing on the warning.

  2. 2
    João Carlos says:

    You know? This reminds me of the (Thanks God!) defunct Brazilian Military Dictatorship, when we had “Secret Decrees”, with the force of Laws, but nobody could know what they decreed, on the grounds of “Classified Material Protection”. They were published on “Secret” issues of the “Official Register”.
    Well, the same government that is pulling this “Patriotic Act” down the throaths of frightned americans, has proposed to the Organization of the American States the creation of a Comission to “Supervise the Exercise of Democracy in Latin-American Countries” and got very surprised when their proposal met bad will…
    I wish I was alive to see the changing of the name od the Country (now known as USA) to: Union of the Christian Sovietic Republic of America…

  3. 3
    borninCO_muslim says:

    Amp -

    In many cases we are already very much aware. You see the Patriot Act gave the government the ability to track what we buy at the grocery (the customer preference cards), sports and department stores. You do get nervous when you buy a can or two of lye for the bathroom drain.

    Since the government has already asked and trained every day citizens and professional truck drivers to “be on the watch” I am already nervous when mail from an Islamic organization reaches my mailbox. Then we also limit the driving from state to state to visit friends and family. What if they think we said or did something that to them is “fishy.”

    The Pat Act also makes it mandatory that for public high schools to receive federal money, students records must be turned over to the government — and they are.

    But it’s not only libraries (and bookstores), women who’ve had abortions, and every single Islamic and Arab-American who needs to beware — it’s all of us.

    The Bush administration like to champion that the Pat Act made it possible for the FBI, local law, etc to be able to talk to one another … yes it did and that is good .. however he completely ignores , when he’s selling PAT II all the other rights grabbing infringements PAT I and II endorses and makes possible. Or they down play it’s affect.

    Someday very soon this country will only have the appearance of liberty.

  4. 4
    Radfem says:

    “Someday very soon this country will only have the appearance of liberty.”

    Oh we crossed that path a long time ago. For one thing, many of the people in this country still can’t vote, without intimidation, harassment or banishment.

  5. 5
    borninCO_muslim says:

    Radfem

    I don’t believe your example truly fits.

    Voter intimidation can be seen as a local issue, without federal codified backing for it’s practice. It is not wide spread, nor in every town, city and hamlet. There are many places where voter intimidation, harassment and/or banishment regardless of gender, race, or religion does not happen.

    PAT I and II is federally codified shredding of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The reach is to every town, city and hamlet. Because it is federally codified it now truly makes the Constitution and the Bill of Rights only an appearance document.

    Your example only made it an appearance by regional practice, not country wide fiat.

    Put another way:
    Town/Cities may resist voter intimidation in a variety of ways, and be successful in overriding and ending the practice. But no town/city can truly resist PAT I no matter what resolutions of non-assistance is passed. Public high schools need the federal dollars, purchase records can be obtained at the home office or credit card company headquarters, without ever stepping foot in the town, even though every transaction was within the town’s geographic limits, etc.

  6. 6
    Radfem says:

    The voting issue was just but one example, not the entire picture of the violation of human liberties in this country.

    I’m sorry you see the disenfranchisement of voters across the country as so insignificant. Some of us don’t. Do the feds back its practice? Well, yeah…given that some of them used it to get into office, so they could do the horrible stuff you just mentioned. Scary, how most of the supposedly more enlightened party just accepted the arrest, intimidation and harassment of voters as due course, not lifting a finger in opposition.

    Internment during WWII, suspension of habias corpus. McCarthyism. Jim Crow and domestic terrorism(often governmental sponsored) against those who opposed it. Etc. This country has a long, proud tradition of violating people’s rights. The Patriot Act wasn’t born in a vaccuum.

    The murder or “suicides” of hundreds of members affiliated with the American Indian Movement with of the 1970s and the massive surveillance of civil rights activists, peace activists, unionists and others throughout our entire history, to the current day. Most if not all, with full cooperation and participation by federal, state and local agencies.

    I always wonder why people believe that this country’s leadership just started shredding human rights after 9-11. They’ve always done it. It’s not like the GOP invented it either. The Democrats are more than willing to do their share especially when they put themselves in a state of hysteria.

    You see, the Patriot Act was inevitable at some point in our history as part and parcel of all that proceeded it. What is past is prologue after all.
    —————————————–
    “There are many places where voter intimidation, harassment and/or banishment regardless of gender, race, or religion does not happen.”
    —————————————–

    Oh, if indeed that were true, but it’s not, unfortunately. It’s just that sometimes we’re aware of it, sometimes we’re not.

  7. 7
    gibbie says:

    “I’m sorry you see the disenfranchisement of voters across the country as so insignificant. Some of us don’t. ”

    I never said that .. I said it wasn’t codified

  8. 8
    gibbie says:

    hah! I unmasked myself
    darn

  9. 9
    gibbie says:

    Yes I am Muslim … no I don’t believe this is the first time. Throughout American history blocks of “marginalize” or undesirables have been denied the franchise … heck I’m a woman, we haven’t even had the vote for 100 years.

    The hope of the USA was that it would rectify and lead others to more equality… in a since the US would “evolve” and push evolution. In many ways it has, even as it has faltered itself. There is not a country today that doesn’t have some type or form of equity issue.

    But now there is a since of true devolution even among those whose families were black balled during McCarthyism or interned during WWII, which did not only happen to the American Japanese, but also some American Germans too.

    A few days before I posted here I had this very conversation with some friends, white, black, brown. It was actually one of my friends who gave me the quote of the appearance of liberty. I expressed the hope that what happened in the 60′s and 70′s that reversed much of McCarthyism would happen again, but my friends didn’t think so. Even lifelong Democrats do not see their party as being the alternative, the saving hope. There is a strong sense that we are rolling so far backward, that was is happening in Kansas is probably the symbol of the whole country at large.

    I don’t agree that PAT I was inevitable, I believe it was always a threat. One that both Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin warned about. Even de Tocqueville understood the tenuousness of this experiment.

    But now it’s not just a group of people, ones that can be shunted away from American thinking as undesirable, or at the margins. PAT I made it pervasive and something that touches everyone even the Republican core constituency though they may not truly realize it. And that is what I believe makes this different, because it didn’t do it to “them”? it did it to everyone.

  10. 10
    gibbie says:

    since = sense