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Patriot Act Now Ten Years Old


The Patriot Act was signed into law 10 years ago today by then President George W. Bush. We've written 570 posts on the Patriot Act. The bottom line is it didn't make us safer, only less free.

Check out the ACLU's illustration of the law over the past decade.
And its report on the sections that most need revision.

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Obama Signs Bill Extending Patriot Act Provisions for Four Years

Update: President Obama signed the Patriot Act bill from France with his auto-pen.

Update: House passes Senate bill, 250 to 153.

The Senate today, by a vote of 72 - 23, approved the extension of the Patriot Act's provisions on roving wiretaps, access to business records and "lone wolf" surveillance. The House is debating now and will hold a vote imminently.You can watch the debate here. President Obama will be woken up at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow to sign it.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Patriot Act Extension


The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the extension of three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act. The bill was ordered reported by a roll call vote of 10-7. One Republican, Mike Lee of Utah, voted for Leahy's bill. The Obama administration and the Attorney General supported Leahy's bill.

Sen. Leahy said the bill approved by the committee contains added civil liberties and privacy protections. He introduced S. 193 on January 26. It is available here and here. Several amendments were made and voted on today. You can see them here (scroll down to bills section.)[More...]

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House Passes Patriot Act Extension

The House of Representatives didn't feel any love for our privacy rights today. It passed the bill extending three intrusive privacy provisions of the Patriot Act. The ACLU says:

“It has been nearly a decade since the Patriot Act was passed and our lawmakers still refuse to make any meaningful changes to this reactionary law. The right to privacy from government is a cornerstone of our country’s foundation and Americans must be free from the kind of unwarranted government surveillance that the Patriot Act allows. If Congress cannot take the time to insert the much needed privacy safeguards the Patriot Act needs, it should allow these provisions to expire.”

Anyone else not feeling the love for Congress these days?

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Patriot Act Alert: Act Tonight, Vote Imminent

Via the ACLU: please take action tonight as a vote on extending the Patriot Act may occur tomorrow.

Today the House voted to put the bill on the calendar.(It was defeated earlier this week in a vote requiring 2/3 approval. Now, a simple majority will do. Here's the bill.

Some news sites are reporting the vote won't be until next week. Either way, let your Congresspersons know how you feel tonight. Extending the Patriot Act won't makes us safer but it will make us less free.

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House Rejects Extending Three Patriot Act Provisions

Tea Partiers helped defeat a House Bill to extend three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act until December. The provisions expire next month:

The Patriot Act bill would have renewed the authority for court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. Also addressed was Section 215, the so-called library records provision, which gives the FBI court-approved access to "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation.

The third deals with the "lone-wolf" provision of a 2004 anti-terror law that permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-U.S. people not known to be affiliated with a specific terror organization.

Obama sought a three year extension. Senate Republicans want to make them permanent. It is likely to be a temporary victory:

Republican leaders will bring the bill back to the floor under a rule, where it will almost certainly secure the 218-vote threshold.

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Senate Votes to Extend Patriot Act

The Senate, on a voice vote, today extended the expiring Patriot Act provisions:

One provision authorizes court-approved roving wiretaps that permit surveillance on multiple phones. A second allows court-approved seizure of records and property in antiterrorism operations. A third permits surveillance against a noncitizen suspected of engaging in terrorism who may not be part of a recognized terrorist group.

How's this for a compromise?

In agreeing to pass the bill, Senate Democrats retreated from adding new privacy protections to the USA Patriot Act.

Having a majority in the Senate doesn't seem to mean much in the age of compromise. The bill now goes to the House, which undoubtedly will do the same.

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Feingold: "We're Not The Prosecutor's Committee"

Sadly, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Patriot Act renewal provisions yesterday. A few modifications were made, but not enough.

Marcy at Empty Wheel live-blogged the hearing and says, other than Feingold's statement, "We're not the Prosecutor's Committee, we're the Judiciary Committee,"

The rest of the hearing featured Democrat after Democrat arguing that we need to develop lists of all the potential suspects out there buying acetone and hydrogen peroxide.[More...]

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No Attack, No Problem: Just Make One Up

President Obama called NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly today to thank him for "thwarting the terror plot that targeted the city's subway system, police said."

Obama expressed his "appreciation and admiration" for the NYPD's effort in stopping the attack, sources said.

Except, there was no known plot to target the city's subway system. The Feds have consistently said they have no evidence Nabijullah Zazi was planning an imminent attack, and if he was, where it was to take place, what he was targeting or when.

"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.

They are speculating Zazi was planning something for Sept. 11, but don't know that. Big difference. No one has a clue what Zazi was up to with his chemicals. September 11 came and went with Zazi in New York and there was no attack. And, as to thanking the NYPD, had they not blown it by alerting the Iman who notified Zazi's father he was being watched, the feds might have a lot more information than they do now. [More....]

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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...]

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ACLU Releases Report on Patriot Act Abuses

Provisions of the Patriot Act will be coming up for renewal in December. The ACLU has been busy meeting with members of Congress and compiling data. Today they released a new report, "Reclaiming Patriotism" which catalogs the abuses during the past eight years. The report is available here (pdf.)

From the gagging of our nation’s librarians under the national security letter statute to the gutting of time-honored surveillance laws, the Patriot Act has been disastrous for Americans’ rights,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “In the panic following the events of 9/11, our nation’s lawmakers hastily expanded the government’s authority to a dangerous level and opened a Pandora’s box of surveillance.”

Check out their new site, Reform the Patriot Act. [More...]

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Today's FISA Amendment News

Scarecrow at Firedoglake and Marcy at The Next Hurrah are covering today's New York Times article suggesting that the FISA Amendment grants far more power than previously thought to intercept phone calls and obtain call and e-mail records of ordinary Americans not suspected of being involved in terrorism.

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

I'd like to focus on one other aspect: deficiencies in reporting requirements. How will the American whose conversations, business records, call records or e-mails are intercepted by virtue of the FISA Amendment find out and how will they be able to challenge it? The answer, as far as I can tell, is they won't know about it and they won't be able to make a legal challenge. The ACLU describes the paltry reporting requirements here.

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Justice Department Power to Speed Up State Executions


While we're on the topic of the Patriot Act today, the L.A. Times reports that the Justice Department may begin using one of its rarely noted provisions -- one that gives the Attorney General the power to shorten the time period within which state death row inmates can file federal appeals of their death sentences. New regulations have been proposed to implement the power.

The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use "fast track" procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal courts after conviction in a state court.

As for what the new regulations provide:

The procedures would cut to six months, nstead of a year, the time that death row inmates have to file federal appeals once their cases have been resolved in the state courts.

It would also impose strict guidelines on federal judges for deciding such inmates' petitions. Federal district judges would have 450 days, appeals courts 120 days.

If it weren't so serious, this line would make me laugh: "Proponents say that would prevent foot-dragging by liberal judges."

As if that's the problem given the number of wrongfully convicted people on death row, those denied adequate counsel and DNA testing at the state level, and a host of other constitutional guarantees.

It was bad enough that AEDPA limited habeas appeals to one year. This is even worse.

Update: The ACS blog has more.

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Patriot Act's "Sneak and Peek" Warrants Used in Domestic Cockfighting Case

Via Instapundit, a case of the federal government using "sneak and peek" search warrants in a Tennessee cockfighting case with no connection to terrorism.

The Patriot Act expanded the government's ability to use sneak and peek (delayed notice) warrants.

“This is one of the few provisions of the Patriot Act that was sneaked into the Patriot Act in the middle of the night so that no one knew it was there,” said Michelle Richardson, a legislative consultant for the ACLU’s Washington, D.C., Legislative Office. “It was passed without everyone knowing about it.”

Prior to the Patriot Act, she said, federal courts had held that agents could conduct secret searches and defer notifying the targets for short periods of time in very limited circumstances, such as when someone’s life might be in danger.

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Senate Approves Bill To Repeal Gonzales' Hiring Authority

The Senate has Senate voted to repeal the secret Midnight Patriot Act provision that granted AG power to appoint interim US Atty's without Senate confirmation:

The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to end the Bush administration's ability to unilaterally fill U.S. attorney vacancies as a backlash to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' firing of eight federal prosecutors.

. . . With a 94-2 vote, the Senate passed a bill that canceled a Justice Department-authored provision in the Patriot Act that had allowed the attorney general to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation.

. . . Essentially, the Senate returned the law regarding the appointments of U.S. attorneys to where it was before Congress passed the Patriot Act, including the unilateral appointment authority the administration had sought in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.

More on the bill from Jeralyn.

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