New Terror Alerts Coincide With Push to Renew the Patriot Act

We have vague terror threats guaranteed to strike fear in the heart of every American because they reference football stadiums, hotels, and mass transit. We have President Obama today calling for a renewal of expiring Patriot Provisions.

The FBI says:

"Nothing in the bulletins references the current investigation," a Federal Bureau of Investigation issued spokesman said Tuesday. Investigators still don't have specific evidence indicating an imminent threat to particular targets in the alleged plot, federal officials said.

That hasn't stopped Republicans from claiming: [More...]

Republicans said now isn't the time to limit the government's powers. The investigation in New York and Colorado is a reminder that "the threat to the homeland is very real," Sen. Kit Bond said in an interview Tuesday. "Tying the hands of our terror-fighters is not what we should be doing now." The current law contains ample privacy and civil liberties protections, the Missouri Republican said.

The three expiring provisions need to go. They pertain to roving wireetaps, library and business records and the "lone wolf" provision.

Democrats have introduced two bills to restrict abuses. The one that needs to pass is Russ Feingold's "Justice Act."

A Senate bill, proposed by Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold and others, seeks to place new limits on wiretapping authorities and to cancel the immunity from lawsuits granted to telecommunications providers that aid government surveillance.

The second bill, by Sen. Patrick Leahy is not the answer.

Another bill proposed by Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy would renew the expiring Patriot Act provisions for four more years -- with new restrictions -- but seeks to also put an expiration date on a law allowing for so-called National Security Letters.

The ACLU has more why we need to support The Justice Act. It testified today at a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Available here.)

“The Patriot Act has not only been a minefield for Americans’ rights, it also started a steady expansion of many of America’s surveillance laws,” said Michael German, ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI Special Agent. “In the wake of 9/11, Congress hastily amended and expanded the government’s authority to conduct domestic surveillance without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Congress must now seize the opportunity to bring these laws in line with the Constitution by passing the JUSTICE Act.”

Since it was rushed through Congress just 45 days after September 11, the Patriot Act has paved the way for the expansion of government-sponsored surveillance including the gutting of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to allow dragnet collection of Americans’ communications. Over the last eight years, numerous expansions of executive authority have worked in tandem to infringe upon Americans’ rights. Only by understanding the larger picture of the combined effects of Patriot Act, the amendments to FISA and other changes to surveillance law can Congress make an informed, consistent and principled decision about whether and how to amend all of these very powerful surveillance tools.

“The Patriot Act fundamentally altered the relationship Americans share with their government,” said German. “By expanding the government’s authority to secretly search our private records and monitor our communications, often without any evidence of wrongdoing, the Patriot Act eroded our most basic right – the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into our private lives. Put very simply, under the Patriot Act the government now has the right to know what you’re doing, but you have no right to know what it’s doing. The time for Patriot Act reform is long overdue.”

The full Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Patriot Act tomorrow. For more, check out the ACLU site, Reform the Patriot Act.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Just makes me want to scream (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 09:47:47 PM EST
    Especially when I see how instantly so many people respond with support for a war.

    Change ? (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by mmc9431 on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 10:01:48 PM EST
    This is the same fear mongering of the Bush administration. There's been too many days that when I have to ask myself if we really had a changing of the guards.

    Republicans don't want to limit government powers? (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by Edger on Tue Sep 22, 2009 at 10:28:17 PM EST
    Oh right, yes. This is about health care, is it?

    I get it now.

    dump the whole thing. (5.00 / 5) (#4)
    by cpinva on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 03:41:12 AM EST
    the patriot act, like the internment of japanese during wwII, was passed in haste, based on uninformed fear. it has no business existing in a democracy.

    it doesn't need to be "fixed", it needs to be resigned to the dustbin of US history, an example of bad legislation not to be repeated.

    bear in mind, the obama administration is also planning on proposing "preventive detention" legislation, an act of government totally in contravention of the constitution.

    It was a grab for power that used (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by Anne on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 07:11:24 AM EST
    fear and questions about people's patriotism to get it done as quickly as possible.

    It was bad then and it's still bad, and I, for one, am exceedingly tired of being jerked around when fear-mongering serves a political agenda.

    It's really too bad we don't have a president with a commitment to restoring the fabric of democracy; if we did, I believe we would have seen changes in, among other agencies and departments, the culture and mission of the Justice Department and the FBI.  Instead, we have Holder, allegedly "sickened" by the report on torture, but who can barely muster up a lip-service commitment to holding people - the little people - accountable for it, and we have an FBI that seems to be engaging in the same kinds of faux investigations we saw during the Bush years whenever they wanted to scare people into accepting incursions on their rights.

    And preventive detention?  Don't even get me started.

    I continue to ask: why hasn't Dawn Johnsen been confirmed as head of OLC?


    Pass the JUSTICE Act Facebook group (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 05:25:33 AM EST
    Coming soon... (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by kdog on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 08:39:36 AM EST
    the sequel, freedom stripping in response to swine flu...see the Massachusetts State Senate bill working its way to the governor.

    We get the government fraidy-cats deserve.

    What I said (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by scribe on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 08:52:08 AM EST
    Terror alerts (none / 0) (#8)
    by CST on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 08:38:40 AM EST
    While I agree that this is a bad time to be renewing the patriot act, I am not so hasty as to disregard the terror alert status.

    History shows that they try to hit a new government in the first year or so, and not just in this country.  I can't imagine why they would quit trying now.

    So pass the justice act now.  Before something happens.  Because we all know that if something does happen this is never going through.

    i can't think (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by cpinva on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 09:43:13 AM EST
    While I agree that this is a bad time to be renewing the patriot act,

    of a good time.

    we should always be on our guard, the patriot act does nothing for that.


    Agree (none / 0) (#12)
    by CST on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 09:51:27 AM EST
    I think we should toss the whole thing.

    I guess I am just not so hasty to say the current terror alerts are purely political in nature.  I believe the terror alerts.  The timing is too real.  I just don't think they should be an excuse to pass cr@ppy legislation.


    I believe the terror alerts too. (none / 0) (#14)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 12:22:33 PM EST
    The timing is too real.

    There are terror alerts announced every time the government wants to terrorize you.

    They work.


    I don't (none / 0) (#15)
    by CST on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 12:35:26 PM EST
    believe terror alerts because the gov't tells me to.  There is reason to believe these might be legit that have nothing to do with politics.  I don't believe them because they are terror alerts.  I believe them because it makes sense that someone would be planning something now.

    But hey, it's just easier to address everything besides that main point.

    And for the record, I am not terrorized, nor do I feel the need to renew cr@ppy legislation.  But I also thought Biden was right when he said they would test Obama.  And yea, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop while hoping it doesn't.


    He's a lot smarter (none / 0) (#16)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 01:07:25 PM EST
    than anyone who thinks he's playing eleven dimensional chess, I agree.

    Why, he's probably sneaking up on the plutocracy and setting a trap for them by giving them everything they want to co-opt them and fool them into thinking he's on their side.


    What are you talking about? (none / 0) (#17)
    by CST on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 01:16:02 PM EST
    Exactly. (none / 0) (#18)
    by Edger on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 01:18:58 PM EST
    The terror alert status?! (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 12:09:01 PM EST
    When in the past has it been used accurately, or because there truly was a threat? When was the last time it was used? It's nothing more than a scare tactic to take away more freedoms.