Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let Patriot Act Die

Don't renew the Patriot Act. It wasn't necessary before and it's not necessary now. The FBI had all the legal tools they needed to investigate any suspected criminal or terrorist. And now they have unfettered legal freedom without a judge's review and approval, at least for the first few days, after which they get the warrant (like 98+% are approved). And since that's true, they could have easily gotten one before with equal success.

They also have the National Security Letter (NSL) now which is a warrantless, nondisclosure power to gather unlimited information from unlimited sources without reason or cause. This power has been used far more for reason unrelated to terrorism or terrorists. And it has the gag provision which bars the receipient from dislcosing anything about the letter, even the existence of it except by order of a judge.

What's frightening about the Act, much against the proponents, is that it gives the FBI complete freedom to conduct "background" investigations against anyone for no reason other than an agent has "good cause to suspect" the person "may" be engaged in suspicious, if not criminal, behavior. This means they're investigating people not directly related to any crime or terrorist planning, just anyone in the neighborhood, or so they believe.

But the studies have shown, while the number of these investigations aren't large, there is both misuse and abuse. The misuse is that while the Patriot Act was aimed at terrorist or terrorism investigation, over 90% of the National Security Letter and warrants have been used for traditional criminal investigations. The FBI is using this freedom to go after criminals and not terrorists.

The abuse is that it was found the FBI used them with investigation or about people which didn't justify the use, let alone a warrant. This is above the number rejected. They simply targetted innocent people for no reason other than an agent's interest with the investigation or the interest to collect a broader array of information beyond the scope of the investigation.

This means you and me. We can be targets by association, occasional meeting, or whatever we do in our life that cause us to interact with someone under investigation. This means the investigation, while focusing on people around any criminal or terrorist with no direct link other than association, they can also investigate us if we fall on their radar for nothing other than living.

This means they can also simply collect everything about your life, no matter how important to related it is to their investigation. This is the way they "tie" you to other suspicious behaviors or acts, by related unrelated matters by inference. For example, if you attended a peace or protest march of some type, it can be used to infer you're a radical and someone who may engage in suspicious acts. It's the 1960's all over again but worse with more unfettered powers.

Don't believe this? Go check out the two political conventions in 2008. The FBI and other counter terrorist agencies, task forces, etal, investigated the leader of the planned protests and marches against the Republicans, in advance. Note, in advance. They already had their reasons to arrest these people before they even did anything. They only needed the act itself, the right to protest, to arrest them.

Over 99% of the charges against the protesters were later dismissed. Their goal was to minimize the publicity of the protests and marches during the convention, and it succeeded, all thanks to the Patriot Act to accumulate enough "evidence" to create suspicion of criminal or terrorist intent to disrupt the convention. That's it. They "proactively" investigated these people for their right to speak and to protest.

And consider that the FBI can now arrest someone on suspicion of terrorism without any actual evidence other than hearsay or or incenuation by others without a warrant for as long as they want. Yes, there is a legal avenue as a material witness warrant, but now if they can relate you to terrorism or terrorists, they don't need a warrant.

It's like the old movie line about the sheriff waiting to do something illlegal and when asked about it he replies, "Badges, we don't need no stinking badges." That's what the Patriot Act gives the FBI, invisible, nondisclosure power to investigate anyone for no real reasons, or more so, arrest someone on suspicion and nothing else.

The Tea Party and Libertarian Party are right on this issue, "Patriot Act, we, the people, don't need no Patriot Act."

No comments: