November 17, 2005

Patriot Act Update - Don't Let Them Pass This Without Your Input

Representative John Conyers provides an update on what's in the latest Patriot Act bill in a dKos diary. Here in a nutshell is the essence of what is being discussed (emphasis mine):

As to the substance of the bill, it contains many illusory provisions that appear to be pro-civil liberties, but are really meaningless or steps backward. Here is a rough sketch:

No 4-year Sunsets for Controversial Provisions: On November 9th, this House voted unanimously in support of 4-year sunsets for only the most dangerous and controversial sections of the PATRIOT Act: intelligence orders, roving wiretaps and the lone wolf authority. The Senate bill contained a 4 year sunset. Unfortunately, the conference report includes only a 7-year sunset making meaningful oversight very difficult for the next several Congresses.

No Standard for Library and Other Intrusive Records: The Conference Report still leaves Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, orders for any tangible thing (library and bookstore records, firearms, and business records), subject to only a "relevance" standard, allowing the government to go on fishing expeditions. It allows for a very limited right to judicial review that is of questionable value.

No Standard for Issuing or Meaningful Challenge to National Security Letters: Last week we learned that over 30,000 national security letters (NSLs) are issued every year to banks, internet providers, insurance companies and other businesses without court approval. However, the Conference Report provides no meaningful mechanism to challenge these letters in court. Even worse -- the legislation has no way ensure that the private information is destroyed after it's collected, letting it sit in government databases forever.

It also imposes a 1 year prison sentence if you publicly reveal that you received an NSL.

Habeas Corpus and Death Penalties: New language contained in section 507 of the Conference report makes considerable changes to the cherished right of habeas corpus. These alterations are badly conceived and hastily and poorly drafted. Under current law, a state is eligible to receive a special set of procedural rules for death penalty cases (rules that are advantageous to the state) if the state establishes an effective system for providing competent counsel to indigents in state postconviction proceedings. Currently, the determination as to whether or not a state's scheme for supplying counsel meets the statutory criteria is left up to the federal courts.

Section 507 changes this relationship and unbalances habeas corpus laws. Under this new language, states would no longer have to satisfy federal courts that their systems for providing counsel in state proceedings are adequate. The authority to approve state schemes would be transferred to the Attorney General. Needless to say, the Attorney General is the nation's chief prosecutor and thus is hardly an appropriate officer to decide whether a state has kept its part of the "opt in" bargain.

In addition, the legislation includes numerous new death penalty provisions which are unrelated to the original PATRIOT Act.

So what they are discussing is a bill that will strip us of a number of our most important rights including our right to habeas corpus - which makes the government justify that they have a real reason to hold someone, the right to have an effective counsel, the right to not face unreasonable seizures, and the right to appeal the case to the courts. Gee, by my count, if you include the right to privacy, this act only seeks to "amend" five to six of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

This is one bill that should not be passed without some highly visible discussion. Do not allow the opportunity pass to let your representive know what you think about the provisions. And make sure your friends, neighbors and family understand what is at stake too. These are our rights they are trying to "amend" without doing the hard work of getting the votes to amend the constitution - a process that would force them to be much more public about they are trying to do.

Posted by Mary at November 17, 2005 12:30 AM | US Politics | Technorati links |

It passed!

Hey Democrats - The patriot act just happens to be one of those talking point issues that MY VOTE WILL BE BASED ON! ......Idiots.....Do not give this President anything! You will be taken to task for your support. I hope you enjoyed your time in office. Right now, I would rather have a true Republican in office than a weak Democrat.

Democrats, go home, get your spine and come back when you are ready to help the American people.

sorry for the rant, but I am a tad upset.

Posted by: g at November 17, 2005 07:20 AM