I would like to discuss the Patriot Act (PA). My interest in this is peaked by two Wall Street Journal (WSJ) articles that appeared in the Tuesday Nov 19th paper. The first is on page 1 column 5 and the second is on page 2 column 1. I would link to them on-line but the WSJ requires a paid subscription, most libraries carry the WSJ.
As some may recall, the PA was passed by congress and signed by the president in a post 9/11 atmosphere that, understandably, badly wanted (wants) to find and remove terrorists still active within U.S. borders. Specifically the PA allowed:
-Broadly expanded law enforcements surveillance and investigative powers
-Allowed a new relationship between domestic criminal investigation agencies (FBI and local police) and foreign intelligence agencies (CIA and presumably the NSA).
-Made it much easier to obtain a search warrant when
searching/investigating a suspected terrorist
-In some cases the search warrant does not need to be served before searching.
-Broadened the definition of terrorist
-Allowed sweeping abilities to monitor electronic communication w/o in most cases a judges approval.
Even though the PA was passed by congress and signed by the president, its legality has been working it way through a "special" court system called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. On Monday this court upheld the PA and as the court put in its own words the PA "largely erases whatever boundary exists between foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement".
This is huge. For many years there has been a barrier between foreign and domestic investigation. Specifically the CIA and NSA may not spy on U.S.
citizens or work with domestic agencies (FBI or local police) on criminal cases, except under very tight circumstances. Why? Simply because the NSA and CIA have virtually no legislative control (checks and balances) to guard that they do no breach citizens privacy. If the FBI were allowed to work directly with the CIA/NSA then possibly there be could a situation where somebody was being fully searched and analyzed without typical rules barring search an seizure.
The PA specifically targets domestic "terrorist suspects", so who cares right? I'm not a terrorist, your not a terrorist, so no big deal. This is where article number 1 in the WSJ comes into play.
The front page WSJ article discusses an FBI test run called "Project Lookout". Shortly after 9/11 the FBI released a document to other government agencies and to private businesses. The document contained a list of hundreds of people wanted for questioning in conjunction with suspected terrorist, names that presumably would fall under the PA as "terrorist suspects".
Project Lookout nailed a few terrorist but as the WSJ article details it also nailed innocent people. People with names like "Atta" or who at one time had been involved with middle eastern business were on the list. Prominently displayed in a public manner and the document has been circulated around the globe, condemning innocent people to prove themselves
not "not terrorist suspects" even when the FBI has said in later lists that they are "cleared".
People make mistakes, large government agencies make even more. The point here, as Project Lookout highlights, is that the PA gives sweeping search and seizure powers to a group of entities that may label a U.S. citizen as a "terrorist suspect" for seemingly trivial reasons.
FBI/CIA/NSA: Your a possible terrorist!
Accused: Who says?
FBI/CIA/NSA: I do and that is all that matters...
I want to see terrorist stopped as much as the next person. 9/11 was terrible. But I can't help but wonder if the PA is going to far.
In related news, here is a Washington post article on how part of the Pentagon's increased budget is being spent to create "A Global Awareness Database" that specifically works with private businesses (presumably credit card companies, airlines, travel...):
I am concerned about the PA and would be interested to read what people have to say. I apologize for this being long winded, but I felt some background info was necessary.
[ This Message was edited by: bitmasher on 2002-11-20 22:39 ]