Why Patriot Act II sucks
Patriot Act II, which John Ashcroft desperately wants passed, is a truly noxious assault on personal freedom and liberty. Patriot Act I, whiich is law now, permits the FBI to force bookstores and libraries to turn over infomation on books people are reading and buying, with the possibility of prison if they refuse.
Patriot Act II is much worse. Among other things, an native-born American citizen could have their citizenship revoked.
From Anita Ramasastry on FindLaw:
Patriot II puts in jeopardy the First Amendment right to speak freely, statutory and common law rights to privacy, the right to go to court to challenge government illegality, and the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. But that’s not all.
It also puts in jeopardy perhaps the most basic right of all: The right to walk the streets in safety without being “disappeared” by the government. Chileans have not always enjoyed this right. Americans, until now, always have.
Suppose you, as a citizen, attended a legal protest for which one of the hosts, unbeknownst to you, is an organization the government has listed as terrorist. Under Patriot II, you may be deported and deemed no longer an American citizen.
Under Patriot II, if you are simply suspected of terrorist activity, this can occur. More specifically, a U.S. citizen may be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization’.”
How can you tell if the citizen wanted to relinquish citizenship? Under Patriot II, the intent can be inferred from conduct. So any association with even the legal activities of a designated group, plus any act that can be interpreted as disloyal to the United States, can mean you are deported, and no longer considered a citizen.
To repeat, this nasty piece of totalitarianism applies to native-born Americans as well as anyone else.
From Matt Welch on AlterNet:
Legal permanent residents (like, say, my French wife), could be deported instantaneously, without a criminal charge or even evidence, if the Attorney General considers them a threat to national security.
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.
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.”
Police officers carrying out illegal searches would also be granted legal immunity if they were just carrying out orders.
Golly, that’s just what Nazis on trial for war crimes said, “we were just following orders”.