The meaning of Patriot Act II

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Wed Jul 23 06:06:40 MDT 2003

Constitutional watchdog Nat Hentoff has called it "the most radical
government plan in our history to remove from Americans their liberties
under the Bill of Rights." Some of DSEA's more draconian provisions:

Americans could have their citizenship revoked, if found to have contributed
"material support" to organizations deemed by the government, even
retroactively, to be "terrorist." As Hentoff wrote in the Feb. 28 Village
Voice: "Until now, in our law, an American could only lose his or her
citizenship by declaring a clear intent to abandon it. But - and read this
carefully from the new bill - 'the intent to relinquish nationality need not
be manifested in words, but can be inferred from conduct.'" (Italics

Legal permanent residents could be deported instantaneously, without a
criminal charge or even evidence, if the Attorney General considers them a
threat to national security. If they commit minor, non-terrorist offenses,
they can still be booted out, without so much as a day in court, because the
law would exempt habeas corpus review in some cases. As the American Civil
Liberties Union stated in its long brief against the DSEA, "Congress has not
exempted any person from habeas corpus - a protection guaranteed by the
Constitution - since the Civil War."

The government would be instructed to build a mammoth database of citizen
DNA information, aimed at "detecting, investigating, prosecuting, preventing
or responding to terrorist activities." Samples could be collected without a
court order; one need only be suspected of wrongdoing by a law enforcement
officer. Those refusing the cheek-swab could be fined $200,000 and jailed
for a year. "Because no federal genetic privacy law regulates DNA databases,
privacy advocates fear that the data they contain could be misused," Wired
News reported March 31. "People with 'flawed' DNA have already suffered
genetic discrimination at the hands of employers, insurance companies and
the government."

Authorities could wiretap anybody for 15 days, and snoop on anyone's
Internet usage (including chat and email), all without obtaining a warrant.

The government would be specifically instructed not to release any
information about detainees held on suspicion of terrorist activities, until
they are actually charged with a crime. Or, as Hentoff put it, "for the
first time in U.S. history, secret arrests will be specifically permitted."

Businesses that rat on their customers to the Feds - even if the information
violates privacy agreements, or is, in fact, dead wrong - would be granted
immunity. "Such immunity," the ACLU contended, "could provide an incentive
for neighbor to spy on neighbor and pose problems similar to those inherent
in Attorney General Ashcroft's Operation TIPS."

Police officers carrying out illegal searches would also be granted legal
immunity if they were just carrying out orders.

Federal "consent decrees" limiting local law enforcement agencies' abilities
to spy on citizens in their jurisdiction would be rolled back. As Howard
Simon, executive director of Florida's ACLU, noted in a March 19 column in
the Sarasota Herald Tribune: "The restrictions on political surveillance
were hard-fought victories for civil liberties during the 1970s."

American citizens could be subject to secret surveillance by their own
government on behalf of foreign countries, including dictatorships.

The death penalty would be expanded to cover 15 new offenses.

And many of PATRIOT I's "sunset provisions" - stipulating that the expanded
new enforcement powers would be rescinded in 2005 - would be erased from the
books, cementing Ashcroft's rushed legislation in the law books. As UPI
noted March 10, "These sunset provisions were a concession to critics of the
bill in Congress."

Whole story:

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