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Sunday, February 20, 2011
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Is Sensenbrenner in Denial, Lying or Simply Ignorant of the Patriot Act?

On Friday, I got the following newsletter emailed to me from Jim Sensenbrenner about the Patriot Act Extension:

On the President’s desk waiting for his signature is my bill extending the PATRIOT Act for 90 days.  Both the House and Senate passed this bill in the last week.  While I’m glad these provisions were extended, as they keep important intelligence-gathering provisions in place, I wish the Senate would have passed the original House bill, as that bill extended the Act until December 8.

Repeatedly extending these provisions for the short-term creates needless uncertainty for our intelligence agencies.

Extension after extension, year after year, challenge after challenge, these three provisions continue to pass the smell test.  These provisions help law enforcement in three ways: they grant authority for court approved roving wiretaps on terror suspects as they change phones or locations; they allow the court approved examination of a terror suspects business records; and finally, the "lone wolf provision" allows the surveillance of suspicious foreigners (not Americans).

Since the PATRIOT Act was enacted, these provisions have been scrutinized to the fullest extent of the law and have always been found constitutional.  Additionally, no civil liberties have ever been violated.  These three provisions have stopped countless potential attacks and play a critical role in helping ensure law enforcement officials have the tools they need to keep our country safe and stop terrorist groups before they attack.

This has been a pretty consistent theme by Sensenbrenner. Every time the Patriot Act is up for renewal, Sensenbrenner always claims that civil liberties are never violated, and that it's never been found unconstitutional. However, both of these claims are outright false, which leads me to wonder why he continues to make them.

What is most interesting is that there is decent in his own party regarding the Patriot Act. Sensenbrenner actually sponsored a bill which would "fast track" the extension through the House, and would have required a 2/3 majority to pass. As it turns out, many members of his own party, mostly Tea Party Republicans, voted against this fast tracking, and it failed. It wasn't until several days later, with the much shorter extension that only required  a simple majority, that it finally passed. Rand Paul spoke very well against the Patriot Act in the Senate:

When the bill did come up for re-authorization, Democrats offered their own amendments, one of which stated:

No Constitutional shortcuts. When investigating American citizens, the government must comply with the Constitution, even in national security investigations

Challenging unconstitutional action. If a citizen challenges the government's use of PATRIOT Act power in a court of law, the case must be expedited to ensure the individual's rights are upheld.

While many would say this was simply a stunt (like reading the Constitution in the House chambers, or requiring that bills say which part of the Constitution authorizes it)... it does beg the question... if the Patriot Act is so wonderfully Constitutional, then what would be so controversial of adding these a provisions to the bill? But I digress...

What of Sensenbrenner's claim that the act is in fact Constitutional and has passed judicial review time and time again? Once again, this is false. One of the more controversial aspects of the Patriot Act was the portion which expanded the ability of the FBI to create National Security Letters... which is essentially a warrantless search where they cross their heart and hope to die that they have good reason to do it. Many portions of this have been ruled either ruled unconstitutional or have had injunctions filed against it and are in serious trouble. In Doe v. Holder, the potions of the statute that required insane gag orders on NSL recipients was ruled unconstitutional. A similar gag order on Libraries regarding NSL's was also ruled unconstitutional in Library Connection v. Gonzales. Similar gag orders with regard to NSL's have been ruled unconstitutional against Internet Service Providers.

But gag orders on National Security Letters is only the tip of the ice berg. Sensenbrenner's claim that civil liberties were never violated is likewise false. The Inspector General's Office has audited the FBI's use of various Patriot Act provisions and found widespread abuse:

The Justice Department Inspector General's internal audit, released Wednesday, harshly criticized how the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Communications Analysis Unit - a counterterrorism section founded after 9/11 — relied on so-called "exigent" letters to get carriers to turn over phone records immediately. The letters were a hangover from the investigation into the 9/11 attacks in New York and promised telecoms, falsely, that subpoenas would follow shortly.
"We found that a distinct lack of oversight and scrutiny by CAU managers, counterterrorism officials and FBI Office of General Counsel attorneys enabled the improper practice of obtaining ECPA-protected telephone records with the promise of future legal process to expand and proceed virtually unchecked for over 4 years," the report found.

The reality is that contrary to Sensenbrenner's final claim that "countless attacks" have been stopped by these provisions, most of the NSL's are actually used in non-terrorism related cases. And we have no knowledge how many plots have been foiled, if any, by these provisions.

Finally, these provisions do not pass the smell test. They have simply provided the FBI with shortcuts on basic 4th Amendment protections that we should all enjoy. Moreover, they were created in such away that many people may never know if their rights were in fact violated.

The Patriot Act has never protected civil liberties, and is certainly not Constitutional, and don't let Jim Sensenbrenner tell you otherwise.

# Posted at 10:08 PM by Nick  |  Comment Feed Link 1 Comment  |  No Trackbacks

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Saturday, March 05, 2011 1:18:03 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
U.S.A. State Sponsored Terror (rock music video) Released

Anti U.S. Police State Musician/activist releases his 5th rock video.

Television interview at:

scott huminski
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