Unpatriotic Act

What a convenient time for this to come up, amidst the continued uninterrupted coverage of Popeapalooza and nonstop attacks on the judiciary by Congress:
The Bush administration's two top law enforcement officials on Tuesday urged Congress to renew every provision of the anti-terror Patriot Act. FBI Director Robert Mueller also asked lawmakers to expand the bureau's ability to obtain records without first asking a judge.


"Experience has taught the FBI that there are no neat dividing lines that distinguish criminal, terrorist and foreign intelligence activity," Mueller said in his prepared testimony.

He also asked Congress to expand the FBI's administrative subpoena powers, which allow the bureau to obtain records without approval or a judge or grand jury.

The Patriot Act is the post-Sept. 11 law that expanded the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers against suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers. Most of the law is permanent, but 15 provisions will expire in December unless renewed by Congress.
Senators Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, plan to reintroduce legislation which would adjust some of the more outrageous provisions of the Patriot Act. (Once again, I wonder if it’s possible to make the amazing Dick Durbin a household name by 2008.)
Among the controversial provisions is a section permitting secret warrants for "books, records, papers, documents and other items" from businesses, hospitals and other organizations.

That section is known as the "library provision" by its critics. While it does not specifically mention bookstores or libraries, critics say the government could use it to subpoena library and bookstore records and snoop into the reading habits of innocent Americans.


Craig and Durbin want Congress to curb both expiring and nonexpiring parts of the Patriot Act, including the expiring "library" provision and "sneak and peek" or delayed notification warrants. Those warrants — which will not expire in December — allow federal officials to search suspects' homes without telling them until later.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified that these provisions are integral parts of fighting terrorism and must remain available to authorities. I suppose he finds civil liberties kinda quaint.

I have yet to hear a compelling reason that necessitates granting these powers to the FBI without the involvement of a judge or grand jury. Suffice it to say, this is just another attack on the judiciary…and, insomuch as it is yet another elimination of an important layer in our system of checks and balances, an attack on the American democracy.

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