Renewing The Patriot Actby Robert
Despite their faults, the ACLU is quite rightly questioning the authority of the US Government where individual liberty is concerned. Specifically, they have been relentless in their opposition to the Patriot Act, legislation that all but ignores the Fourth Amendment and the presumption of innocence.
Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can demand the disclosure of personal records about innocent people without getting approval from a judge. Simply by issuing a National Security Letter, the FBI can force Internet service providers, universities and other institutions to turn over customer records.
Even more disturbing, anyone who receives an NSL is gagged forever from telling anyone that the FBI demanded records. Secrecy surrounding NSLs has made it difficult for the public and Congress to know just how the FBI is using its new power.
What made the Congress and Bush think that they could just dispense with due process? Yes, we’re at war with a network of psychos that don’t wear uniforms, but does that mean that we, US citizens, must forfeit the constitutionally
protected right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures?
Think of the implications of such arbitrarily assumed federal power. The FBI could, after having issued an NSL, search, seize, arrest and jail one indefinitely without providing an iota of proof in open court. Joe Stalin and Saddam might approve of this, but Bush?
There may yet be hope. According to an AP story, the House and Senate are negotiating a deal that will mitigate the injustice of NSLs.
The compromise also makes changes to national security letters, an investigative tool used by the FBI to compel businesses to turn over customer information without a court order or grand jury subpoena.
Under the agreement, the reauthorization specifies that an NSL can be reviewed by a court, and explicitly allows those who receive the letters to inform their lawyers about them.
While the changes are a step in the right direction, I’m not sure that those in Washington appreciate the potential danger of such legislation. For example, “the Bush administration contends that such consultation already is allowed, citing at least two court challenges to NSLs.” Nice try, Bush, but those two court challenges were raised after you signed that piece of crap into law!
Sigh…just remember, Mr. & Mrs. America, if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear…right?