Monday, May 23, 2011

A little more bad news: this, too

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reek and House Speaker John Boner have agreed on a plan to ram through a four-year extension of expiring provisions of the grossly-misnamed Patriot Act, which should be called the Traitor Act for its effects on privacy and civil liberties.
The idea is to pass the extension with as little debate as possible to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government.
Yes, indeed, as Glenn Greenwald says,
we wouldn't want to have any messy, unpleasant democratic debates over "the expanded power the law gives to the government."
That would be uncouth. Not at all in keeping with our serious bipartisan "Whatever you say, Mr. Prez" seriousness. And the fact that in February, Harry Reid promised a full week of debate on the renewal? Ancient history, dude! Get over it!
Under the deal, two sections of the so-called USA Patriot Act and a third provision from a related intelligence law would be extended, without any changes, until June 1, 2015.
Failing that renewal, they would expire on Friday. This would mark the second time, the first being just over a year ago, that the provisions have been extended without changes with the approval of President Barack Obama - even though Senator Barack Obama had spoken and voted against them.

One of the three provisions at issue, the one not from the Traitor Act itself, has to do with so-called "lone wolves." Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, doing electronic surveillance on a person involved them being an agent of a foreign government or group. This provision eliminated that requirement - which means that a FISA warrant, both more wide-reaching and in practice even easier to get than a warrant in a criminal investigation, could be directed against any individual foreigner, even if they have no connection to any foreign government or group. This is to be extended even though the White House admitted in March that the provision has not been used a single time in the nearly 10 years it has been in force, which certainly should call its necessity into question.

One of the two Traitor Act provisions involved provides for roving wiretaps, where it is not the phone that is tapped, but, if you will, the person. This allows in practice for "John Doe" warrants where the identity of the person is unknown and agents
can get a warrant that doesn't specify a facility, or a phone number or an account. It doesn't actually name the target. It might describe the target as a username on the Web. ...

[U]nder the Patriot Act, too much discretion is ceded to the investigator. They might say, there's probable cause to think KSM9@yahoo should be under surveillance. But without even knowing who that person is, the investigator gets to decide what other accounts and online identities to wiretap without going back to the court and explaining why there's probable cause that these other accounts are terror-related.
The other Traitor Act provision is Section 215, relating to "tangible things."
It allows investigators to get an order from the FISA court permitting them to compel the production of any tangible thing that is relevant to an investigation.
What's a "tangible thing?" It's anything. Pretty much literally. It's any record or anything else, any actual "thing," that is connected to a suspect in an intelligence investigation or someone in contact with them, even if that other person is not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever. What's more, under the law any such thing is considered to be "presumptively relevant," which means that the judge cannot deny such a request, which of course makes the whole "warrant" business an utter sham.

Both those latter provisions, the ones relating to "lone wolves" and "tangible things," have seen serious abuses.

That is what is thought worthy by our Congressional leaders from both parties to be renewed "with at little debate as possible."
Reid formally unveiled the agreement by filing a cloture petition Thursday afternoon that will force a vote on Monday to bring the legislation to the Senate floor on Monday. Assuming the Senate passes the legislation extending the Patriot Act provisions, the House would vote shortly afterwards....
There is some opposition in both Houses but quite frankly I do not expect it will be enough, especially in the face of arguments like Eric Holder's that the killing of Osama bin Laden could produce retaliation so we need these powers more than ever. In other words, when bin Laden was alive, we needed them because he was alive; now that he's dead, we need them even more because he's dead. And you know damn well most of Congress will go "Yeah, sure, that makes sense."

Why the fuck don't they just have a bonfire of copies of the Constitution and be done with it?

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');