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Patriot Act hits more trouble

The U.S. Senate has blocked a vote to extend the Patriot Act, about which Perry de Havilland wrote the other day. Maybe some sanity is breaking out. Many of the Act’s provisions are tenuously linked to protecting the public from terrorism, to put it mildly, and violate parts of the U.S. Constitution. Let’s hope Congress reflects more before passing such laws at such high speed in the future. And the same applies to our own benighted Parliament and the wretched UK Civil Contigencies Act.

22 comments to Patriot Act hits more trouble

  • Any thoughts on this, then? Or did you already cover that elsewhere…

  • Johnathan Pearce

    apotheosis, I have not really looked at this EU issue in much detail but thanks for the pointer. If you have any further thoughts of your own, please comment away.

  • My prediction:

    The parts actually related to terrorism but popularly demonized, like datamining public records, will be shot down, while those related to civilian crime like money laundering will remain. We will get the worst of both worlds, ineffectiveness against preventing military attacks but expanded government power to pursue civilian criminals.

    When the next mass-causality attacks occurs, we will start the cycle all over again.

  • Folks might be interested in constituional scholar Orin Kerr’s take on the situation:

    For those of us who think of the Patriot Act as actual legislation rather than a symbol of the Bush Administration, this is rather puzzling stuff. The dirty little secret about the Patriot Act is that only about 3% of the Act is controversial, and only about a third of that 3% is going to expire on December 31st. Further, much of the reauthorization actually puts new limits on a number of the controversial non-sunsetting provisions, and some of the sunsetting provisions increased privacy protections. As a result, it’s not immediately obvious to me whether we’ll have greater civil liberties on January 1, 2006 if the Patriot Act is reauthorized or if it is allowed to expire.

    This is one of those situations when unintended consequences rear their ugly heads.

  • Verity

    Anyway, it’s been defeated.

  • If you have any further thoughts of your own, please comment away.

    My first thought about it is that it makes even the most controversial aspects of the Patriot Act look fairly tame by comparison.

    They’ve got a bill that started out as an anti-terrorist measure which has, through the intervention of various large companies (Disney, EMI, Universal Music and Sony BMG are cited in the article), been broadened – some might say “perverted” – to include copyright protection measures in its mandate.

    The upshot of which is, all the data that was formerly to be collected for use by “competent national authorities” against terrorists, is now to be made accessible to any law enforcement agency, for any purpose, against anyone suspected of copyright infringement.

    If that’s actually the case – and unless I’m misreading it, that’s how it sounds – I simply wonder where the voices of outrage are.

  • Joshua

    Shannon Love’s post is right on point. The liberals will have won the war on the clauses they chose to get huffy about, and more power to them. We can all do without goons sniffing our library cards.

    But I agree completely that they’re missing the point. Domestic provisions with nothing whatever to do with terrorism will be allowed to stay – especially those that give the government expanded powers to fight the “war on drugs.” I think it’s ironic in the extreme that the ACLU spends all its time screaming about civil liberties violations in the name of fighting terrorism when the real danger is the powers the government wants for itself to fight drug dealers and organized crime. Or, as Shannon concisely puts it:

    We will get the worst of both worlds, ineffectiveness against preventing military attacks but expanded government power to pursue civilian criminals.

    Well said.

  • susan

    When another attack occurs and we hear again the words “how could this have happen?”, I trust those politicians who voted against our civil right to defend ourselves will volunteer to excute themselves for slaughtering those citizens the very same politicos were elected to serve and protect.

    That said, I am beginning to think that even if Israel is wiped off the face of the planet the world will still continue to believe Islamic Fascism is not a real threat.

  • karl rove

    I love the naivitey of both liberals and libertarians. Fondly blieving that so long as the Govt is forbidden to bug phones by law, it won’t dare do it.

    Incidentally, the Gumn is not our friend.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Karl, we’re not so naive as to imagine that if such laws don’t exist, the government won’t try to snoop and pry. However, it is good to try and put roadblocks in front of the power-grabbing state.

  • Karl

    What faith you have in laws!

  • Karl.

    What faith you have in laws!

    Well, no, why do think we are all so keen to keep our guns?

    One restrains the Levantine the same way the lilliputians restrained Guliver, with many diverse little threads.

  • Lascaille

    With Bush’s confession today, it’s pretty academic whether this act is passed or not.

    Nothing in this act permits the NSA to be deployed internally within the USA (which is strictly verboten,) but it turns out that’s been happening for quite a while and he’s happy to admit that ‘he’s doing what it takes to protect America.’

    Welcome to the future!

  • The Patriot Act itself enabled law enforcement and intelligence agencies to share information on terrorism investigations, something they were doing already in crime investigations.

    Thinking that defeating the Patriot Act will prevent such agencies from impinging on your privacy is silly, to say the lest.

  • Karl Rove

    Shannon L.

    By Levantine, do you mean Leviathan?

  • Karl Rove,

    By Levantine, do you mean Leviathan?

    Yep, didn’t preview and I was to quick on the draw with my spelling checker.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Karl, your remark implies that the government will do what it wants regardless so there is no point getting concerned about laws. I disagree. I think that laying some lines in the sand, so to speak, helps embolden the public in resisting nonense like the Patriot Act.

    My worry is closer to home in Britain where willingness to confront tyranny seems to be very weak or haphazard.

  • Joshua

    I think that laying some lines in the sand, so to speak, helps embolden the public in resisting nonense like the Patriot Act.

    It also give them a trigger to pull when malfeasance comes public. It’s true that the law never stopped the government doing its dirty work, but I agree with Jonathan that it at least puts some brakes on it.

  • Joshua

    “Johnathan,” sorry. Apologies – I’m not used to that spelling.

  • Kim du Toit

    My biggest worry about the PA is that the definition of “terrorism” is left to the Gummint.

    And one day, people who own hunting “sniper” rifles will also be defined as “terrorists’…

  • Julian Taylor

    People who own hunting or sniper rifles don’t get classed as terrorists for the ownership of a weapon – they get classed as terrorists for using that weapon to begat terror.

    Knowing the person who created the USA PATRIOT Act I can only presume that he is slightly relieved that some of its more unpleasant provisions may be rescinded. The intent was clearly to grant more powers to law enforcement officers to be able to do their jobs and curb terrorism, as I daresay GWB intended, but what we were left with after Ashcroft yielded to the public servants was a bill allowing bureaucrats to embark on a colossal unfettered spending spree – all in the name of that same Act.

  • Karl Rove

    Joe Nathan

    “Some lines in the sand.” Exactly.
    My point is this – if the Gumn are as evil as libertarians and Guardian readers claim, it wull ignore the laws. See the phone-tapping scandal the NYT has just revealed.
    It is possible, however, that the UK Gumn, just because it wastes a lot of our dosh, is still not UTTERLY evil. But if it is, laws won’t bother it.