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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

New PATRIOT Act Legislation Destroys Liberty

The Fourth Amendment reads as follows:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
In its newest assault on the United States Constitution, the Bush administration and its Democrat and Republican allies in the Senate are pushing new legislation that will nearly put an end to the Fourth Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment reads as follows:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act heavily damaged this essential and natural right of the people by setting up secret courts to approve subpoenas for the seizure of documents, records and more. The government is obviously not satisfied with this overt attack on our liberties and still wants greater powers. On May 20, 2005, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained a copy of the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act renewal draft bill that is to be considered by the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors, and without public debate. Read the full text of the proposed legislation by clicking here (Adobe Acrobat Required).

Under the latest proposal for renewing and expanding the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, the Fourth Amendment will be virtually eviscerated by allowing the FBI to act on its own, without the approval of a court or grand jury, to obtain these same records and more.

Although worded to appear as if this will be only used against "foreign agents" the proposed bill specifically allows the FBI to use these powers against "United States persons." The concern for the abuse of power is real, as the ACLU in just the past week, has obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request that show that the FBI is using terrorism as an excuse to "spy on political activists opposed to various government policies."

It is important to note that no member of Congress was allowed to read the first P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act before passing it, and no debate on it was allowed by the House and Senate leadership. With this track record in mind, it is obvious that members of Congress are not to be trusted with this new, and extremely dangerous legislation. The Populist Party challenges all Americans to read and study this new P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act and compare its legal structure with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It strips the people of even more rights, and gives immunity to those who violate those rights.

The following is a brief overview of some of the most important measures within this tyrannical legislation:

Section 101
Eliminates the sunset provision (the end of power) for the following sections of P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act I: 203, 204, 206, 207, 214, 215 and 218. Most notable is section 215 which creates secret courts that can give orders which can be used to obtain records or "tangible items" from any person or business if the FBI claims a link to terrorism. The recipient of these orders is gagged; telling anyone (except those allowed by the FBI) is punishable by prison

Section 211
Modifies business-records provisions in current law. This section allows the FBI, without a court order, to procure business records such as library records, the purchase or sale of books, firearm purchases, travel records, medical records and more. Again, the recipient of the order is gagged, under punishment of prison.

Section 212
This section allows the FBI, without a court order, to track and keep records on all US Mail as deemed necessary. The FBI will be able to keep "nonconsensual records" (transcriptions, photos, photocopies) of the outside of all "mail covers" of sealed mail, which includes envelopes, packages, wrappings, and the like. This section also allows the FBI to keep records of the contents of all unsealed mail, which includes all sealed 2nd, 3rd, and 4th class mail, and all international parcel post mail. As with the previous sections, the recipient of the order is gagged.

Section 213
This section, which is the most tyrannical, creates new "administrative subpoena" powers for the FBI. Court orders will no longer be necessary for the FBI to obtain records from any person or business, including travel records, medical records, library records, bank records, and more. To add salt to this wound, any person or business who supplies this information to the FBI would be given permanent immunity from civil liability in any US or State court, plus the standard gag order will be in effect. To sum this up, if the FBI wants your bank records, the bank will be required to turn them over, and no employee will be able to tell anyone. If for some reason, you find out who was responsible for it, and it violated your rights, you would never be able to sue that person or business in any court in the country.

Section 214
This section eliminates the semi-annual reporting requirement (by the FBI to Congress) on the number of times electronic surveillance is "passed on" to law enforcement.
With the passage of this legislation, the Bill of Rights will be in tatters. The most essential protections against tyranny are those found in the Bill of Rights. These rights are not given or taken away by any government. Rather, they are inherent rights that are to be protected by our government at all costs. Any officer of the federal government that violiates the most basic principles of freedom by supporting or approving this legislation must be held accountable. Sign up for the Populist Party's newsletter or become a member to be a part of the fight for our liberty. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "The People are the only sure reliance for the preservation of Liberty."
 
 


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