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Under the Microscope: THE PATRIOT ACT

By       Message RC deWinter       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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The Senate Judiciary Committee is re-examining the PATRIOT ACT as I write this, mainly based on the frightening recent revelations of the flagrant misuse of power, especially by the FBI.

John Mueller, Director of the FBI, testified before the Committee today and said that his agency had not properly implemented the powers granted to it under the PATRIOT ACT but those errors were being corrected. He urged that the PATRIOT ACT be left intact.

Arlen Specter, (R-PA), told Mueller, “I'm not impressed with your assertion that there are thousands of facts," Specter said. "That's your job. You asked for these powers; we gave you them. If these applications are wrong, you're subjecting people to an invasion of privacy that ought not to be issued."

Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, in his opening statement, “Last year the administration sought new powers in the Patriot Act to appoint U.S. Attorneys without Senate confirmation and to more freely use National Security Letters. The administration got these powers, and they have badly bungled both."

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Do you know the major points embodied in the PATRIOT ACT (which, by the way, ought to be the poster child for Truth-In-Advertising reform!)?

The essence of the PATRIOT ACT:

a) Gives the government the power to strip Americans of their citizenship for participating in lawful activities of groups labeled "terrorist" by the Attorney General -" currently our pal Alberto Gonzales. That alone is really scary!

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b) Makes it legal for the government not to disclose the identity of people being detained in connection with a terrorist investigation - even American citizens - until criminal charges are filed. As we have seen in the case of Guantanamo, this could be years. So, an American citizen thus detained without charges could "disappear."

c) Repeals the current limitations affecting the behavior of local police who spy on religious and political activists and groups

d) Enables the government to obtain credit card and library records of individuals - without a warrant

e) Allows wiretaps without a court order to up to 15 days after anything the government designates as a terror attack

f) Restricts the public release of information about health and safety hazards of chemical and other types of plants and factories

g) Expands the definition of "terrorism" to include people engaged in civil disobedience (they might lose their citizenship), and groups sponsoring such could be wiretapped

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h) Allows the wiretapping, search and extradition of Americans on orders from foreign nations, regardless of what treaties may exist that outlaw these actions

i) Abolishes the right of lawful immigrants to a fair deportation hearing, along with barring Federal Courts from reviewing immigration rulings

j) Establishes a DNA data base of "suspected terrorists" - with a definition of such so broad that it could include anyone in any way associated with such groups k) Allows domestic espionage to be carried out against American citizens unknowingly and without judicial oversight.

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RC deWinter is an essayist, poet, photographer, singer-songwriter and civil servant who lives and works in the Connecticut River Valley.

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