Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Patriot Act: Who needs judges?

from Prisonplanet.com

Americans' civil liberties got a reprieve last week when the Bush administration failed to bully members of the Senate Intelligence Committee into expansion of the USA Patriot Act. The assault on freedom can't be renewed until Congress' Memorial Day recess ends June 7.

The Patriot Act was wrought in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, a time of high anxiety and great uncertainty about the dimensions of the ongoing terrorist threat facing the nation. Recognizing that, Congress had the collective wisdom to put sunset provisions on 16 of the new law's major provisions.

Because of the controversial nature of the law and the ways in which it's been applied, every element of its re-enactment should be carefully considered, broadly debated and exposed to extensive public review. Instead, the Intelligence Committee is meeting in secret.

Worse, some in Congress and the White House would not only make permanent the law's controversial elements but also expand the law to increase the power of the federal government to sift through our files and peer into our lives.

One of the most troubling of the proposed new powers would be granted to the FBI, in the ability to issue "administrative" subpoenas, which would not require a judge's approval. Surely legislation in such blatant conflict with the Fourth Amendment should at least be debated in the light of day.

Related: The Proposal to Reauthorize and Expand Parts of the USA PATRIOT Act: Why It's Unnecessary and, In Some Respects, Dangerous
In addition to reauthorizing these controversial provisions, the bill, if enacted into law, would also expand the government's power to secretly - and without getting a court's approval - demand people's private records, even though they aren't suspected of terrorist acts.

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