It is once again the time of year that Congress votes on extending the PATRIOT Act. Once again, it is expected to pass with little or no debate or opposition.
This monstrosity was originally passed shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 commonly called the “PATRIOT Act”. This act of Congress explicitly amended 11 existing Acts of Congress (Electronic Communications Privacy Act; Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; Money Laundering Control Act; Bank Secrecy Act; Right to Financial Privacy Act; Fair Credit Reporting Act; Immigration and Nationality Act; Victims of Crime Act of 1984; Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act) and, by default, portions of the Bill of Rights.
The “PATRIOT Act” has been rightfully criticized for its “authorization of indefinite detentions of immigrants; searches through which law enforcement officers search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; the expanded use of National Security Letters, which allows the FBI to search telephone, e-mail, and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, including library and financial records.”
In 2007 Wired Magazine reported on such abuses, “The FBI evaded limits on, and sometimes illegally issued, orders for phone, email and financial information on American citizens and underreported the use of these self-issued orders to Congress, according to an internal audit by the Justice Department released Friday. The DOJ Inspector General reported that the FBI used self-issued subpoenas, known as National Security Letters, to get information on at least 143,074 targets.
The audit found that 60% of a sample of these subpoenas did not conform to the rules, and another 22% contained unreported possible violations of the authorizing statute, including improper requests and unauthorized collections of information.”
Judge Andrew Napolitano further explains,
“The PATRIOT Act’s two most principle constitutional errors are an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and on the First. It permits federal agents to write their own search warrants [under the name “national security letters”] with no judge having examined evidence and agreed that it’s likely that the person or thing the government wants to search will reveal evidence of a crime.
Remember that the British government permitted its soldiers to execute self-written search warrants. They called them “writs of assistance,” and they were one of the last straws that caused American colonist to rebel. It’s bitterly ironic that 230 years later a popularly elected government would authorize its own agents to do the same thing that when a monarchy did it, we fought a war of rebellion in reaction—which we won!
Not only that, but the PATRIOT Act makes it a felony for the recipient of a self-written search warrant to reveal it to anyone. The PATRIOT Act allows [agents] to serve self-written search warrants on financial institutions, and the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 in Orwellian language defines that to include in addition to banks, also delis, bodegas, restaurants, hotels, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, telecoms, HMOs, hospitals, casinos, jewelry dealers, automobile dealers, boat dealers, and that great financial institution to which we all would repose our fortunes, the post office.
So FBI agents can write their own search warrant with just the permission of their superior, no judge at all, nobody at the main Department of Justice, and serve it essentially on any entity they want, and if they serve this search warrant on your doctor, lawyer, grocer, or mailman, and that doctor, lawyer, grocer, or mailman tells you they received it, then that doctor, lawyer, grocer, or mailman, can be prosecuted for a felony, face five years in jail. What part of the First Amendment’s “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech” do they not understand?”
John Tate, President of Campaign for Liberty, said, “Taking away our freedoms and invading our privacy… is by no means ‘Patriotic.’ In fact, there is nothing more un-American. Furthermore, the badly misnamed ‘PATRIOT Act’ is not the Act of Patriots. It is the act of petty tyrants seeking more and more power and control over our country.”
We must ensure that this unjust act of Congress is killed and if it isn’t; I say, we take to the streets!