Sunday, January 18, 2004

PATRIOT II - Enacting it Piecemeal by Stealth

The proposed add-on to the ill-conceived USA PATRIOT Act was rightly derided by civil libertarians, activists, and even ordinary citizens, when the Justice Department gave it a trial balloon send up last year. As if the original, passed in the days immediately following the horrible attacks against the United States in September 2001, was not bad enough!

But we are talking about a determined Bush administration here. On December 13, the day the news of Saddam Hussein's capture was making headlines, President Bush signed the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2004 into law. This routine bill had something not so routine. It carried in its verbiage one of the key components of the poorly-received, proposed PATRIOT II. This language changed three very fundamental financial privacy rights of individuals. These are:

1. The law allows the federal government to snoop into the private financial records of individuals without those individuals being suspected of any crime.

2. The law allows the feds to snoop into peoples' finances without obtaining an order from a federal judge.

3. It expands the definition of financial institutions from just banks, to include stockbrokers, car dealerships, pawnbrokers, jewelers, the US Postal Service, or any business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters.".

Surprisingly, very little was reported of this in the media. I only recently saw an article online by a reporter named Jordan Smith, which detailed the passage and signing of this bill. The impact of this bad legislation speaks for itself. America continues its race toward becoming a police state. These are truly perilous times in these United States. We face a suicidal and maniacal enemy in the form of the Al-Qaeda terror network. We also face a rapid erosion of liberty, privacy and presumption of innocence from our own government. The president swore to protect our nation from all enemies, both foreign & domestic. Unfortunately, the terrorists may have succeeded in destroying us indirectly, by giving our leaders an excuse to trample the Constitution in the name of protecting us. We can only hope that the judicial branch gets a chance to rule on this law which sets such a dangerous precedent.

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