25 2003, 1800 PST (FTW)
-- With more than twenty U.S. cities having passed
resolutions openly opposing the multiple civil liberties
violations in the 2001 Patriot Act, and as the state
of New Mexico debates legislation that would encourage
police agencies to avoid violations of the First Amendment,
the recent leak of a secret Bush administration bill
that would further erode civil liberties has provoked
a bizarre tale of denials and "non responses" by the
administration. Thus far the saga of the Domestic Security
Enhancement Act of 2003 - commonly known as Patriot II
- suggests that the leak of the proposed legislation
was possibly a "trial balloon" or "tester" to gauge both
public and congressional reaction to a bill that, if
passed, would grant the federal government drastic new
powers in a continuing erosion of the Bill of Rights.
II has not been officially introduced in either house
of congress and thus has no official standing. It has,
however, been officially transmitted by the Bush Justice
Department to Vice President Cheney (President of the
Senate) and House Speaker Denny Hastert, R-Illinois.
bill has already been given a clandestine odor and the
Bush administration has violated standard congressional
protocols in its handling. In fact, the administration
has been caught in outright lies about the bill's actual
status. In official comments dated February 10, ranking
Senate Judiciary Committee member Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont,
stated, "For months, and as recently as just last week,
Justice Department officials have denied to members of
the Judiciary Committee that they were drafting another
anti-terrorism package. There still has not been any
hint from them about their draft bill."
Conyers, D-Michigan, ranking member of the House Judiciary
Committee, which has jurisdiction over proposed anti-terrorism
legislation, in a Feb, 10th letter to Attorney
General John Ashcroft -- signed also by Representatives
Robert Scott, D-Virginia, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas,
write to express my profound disappointment about your
Department's handling of anti-terrorism policy. Recent
reports irrefutably indicate that the Department of
Justice has been working on a successor bill to the "USA
Patriot Act" for some time. Notwithstanding the Judiciary
Committee's jurisdiction in this matter and outstanding
record of dealing with this legislation, the Committee
reported a bipartisan version of the Patriot Act by
a unanimous vote, according to the Chairman's spokesman
there have been no consultations with the Committee
on this bill.
Spokesperson, Barbara Comstock, claimed in a February
7, statement (attached) that the new draft bill was
still in "internal deliberations" within the Department
and still being discussed at "staff levels" and has
not been "presented... to the White House." This is blatantly
false in several respects, yet the Department of Justice "Control
Sheet" (attached) plainly indicates that the bill was
forwarded to the Speaker of the House and Vice President
on January 10...
specifically requested that the Attorney General reply
to his letter no later than February 15, 2003. A Conyers' spokesperson
told FTW today that not only has the Justice
Department not replied to Conyers' letter but that they
have "not even acknowledged receiving it."
Department of Justice did not respond to a call from FTW asking for a response to Conyers' letter
or an explanation as to why they had not responded.
bill's draft and the fact that it had been officially
transmitted to Cheney and Hastert nearly a month a month
before its existence was disclosed was revealed in major
scoop released on Feb. 7, 2003 by Washington, D.C.'s
non-partisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI). FTW has relied extensively on comprehensive reports by
the CPI for past major stories including our 2000 story, The
Bush Cheney Drug Empire.
In a follow-up story on PBS' Frontline, anchor Bill Moyers interviewed CPI's Executive Director
Chuck Lewis who disclosed that the CPI had obtained
a copy of the bill as a result of a leak from within
the Justice Department by someone who was exposing
themselves to great risk in the post-9/11 climate of
secrecy in Washington. The fact that the story was
leaked raises the possibility that the Bush administration
was attempting to gauge both public and congressional
reaction prior to introducing the bill for legislative
Lewis was not jesting when he told Moyers that Patriot
II was five or ten times worse than the first Patriot
provisions allow for secret arrests of persons in certain
terrorist-related cases until indictments have been handed
down and there is no time limitation for this process.
America has never permitted secret arrests for indefinite
time periods. In addition, Patriot II provides that these
terrorist arrests may be under "no bail" conditions and
that any federal employee who discloses the identity
of someone who has been secretly detained may be imprisoned
for up to five years.
bill mandates that government authorities are entitled
to have ex parte (one- on-one, without defense counsel or a public
record) and in camera (private) - meetings
with judges without opposing counsel or defendants even
being notified to secure rulings on search warrants,
admissibility of evidence and investigative procedures.
In certain cases where naturalized American citizens
are found to be working with foreign governments, or
making donations to foreign based charities later found
to be supporting terrorist causes, the Attorney General
will have the right to revoke U.S. citizenship and extradite
those charged to any country in the world, whether there
is an extradition treaty in place or not.
has been some debate, encouraged by inaccurate and extremely
irresponsible reporting by some "alternative" journalists
and radio talk show hosts indicating that the bill provides
the government with the ability to strip native-born
U.S. citizens of their citizenship for seemingly trivial
offenses. This is patently untrue. The actual truth is
501 of Patriot II amends section 349 of the Immigration
and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1481) pertaining to the
citizenship status of those who have acquired U.S. citizenship. It states that those who have entered
into the armed forces of a foreign government (when such
forces are engaged in hostilities against the US), or
have joined or provided material support "to a terrorist
organization... if the organization is engaged in hostilities
against the United States, its people, or its national
security interests" will be deemed to have made a prima
facie (apparent on its face) statement that they intend to relinquish their
and Moyers were correct in their interpretation of this
section in that a naturalized American who makes a donation
to an Islamic charity later alleged to have been giving
money to a terrorist organization could be stripped of
their citizenship and deported anywhere without it ever
having been established that he or she even knew how
the charity was distributing its money.
act broadens the scope of activities that qualify for
the loose-to-non-existent guidelines for eavesdropping
and surveillance under Patriot I and allows law enforcement
personnel to obtain "national" search warrants for domestic
and foreign terrorism investigations. As discussed in
previous FTW stories, under Patriot I the definition
of "domestic terrorism" is extremely vague and non-specific.
Throwing away decades of progress obtained as a result
of litigation in the 1970s and 80s the new bill specifically
overturns dozens of consent decrees prohibiting law enforcement
agencies from infiltrating non-violent religious and
civic groups exercising protected first amendment rights.
126 of the act allows the U.S. government to obtain consumer
credit reports and to impose criminal penalties on credit
reporting agencies if they disclose to individuals that
the government has obtained copies of their records.
127 of Patriot II allows the Federal government to supercede
all local statutes governing autopsies in terrorism investigations
which means literally that if a person died at the hands
of an illegal federal investigation, the autopsy results
could show a suicide or some other finding favorable
to the government. This would also apply in cases of
accidental death due to fatalities resulting from mass
compulsory vaccinations. In such cases, instead of finding
dangerous vaccines as the cause of death the federal
government could instead blame terrorists.
the door for the Total Information Awareness program
run by convicted Iran-Contra felon John Poindexter, section
128 provides for the issuance of federal administrative
subpoenas in cases "involving domestic or international
terrorism" to any company that maintains records on any
individual in the United States. This would apply to
everything from medical records, to credit card and utility
bills, to the reading habits of the targeted individual.
This section also provides stiff criminal penalties of
up to five years imprisonment for any employee of a private
company who reveals that the records have been sought.
compiled, these records can be shared with any foreign
government the government wishes to share them with.
It also allows federal agents to serve search warrants
issued by foreign governments inside this country.
in the list of list of noxious provisions, chemical and
utility companies would be absolved under the act from
requirements that they publicly disclose the kinds of
dangerous chemicals in use at their facilities or "worst
case scenario" information about what might happen if
there were malfunctions or breakdowns at their facilities.
This equates to an environmental "carte blanche" for
the same time, Supreme Court Justices and other federal
VIPs are no longer required to declare as income the
cost of federally provided bodyguard and security services.
This amounts to a back door raise in pay of up to several
hundred thousand dollars a year for federal judges and
executives who will be much more likely to remain friendly
to the administration.
And in a particularly chilling passage, section 404
of Patriot II would impose a penalty of up to five years
of imprisonment for anyone who used any form of computer
encryption to commit anything defined as domestic or
foreign terrorism. Under the liberal definition of domestic
terrorism contained in Patriot I, a possible interpretation
of this section could be that a reporter who uses PGP
or other encryption program to correspond with a foreign
confidential source could be imprisoned for five years - just
for using the software. It also suggests that no commercial
entity which uses encryption to protect its proprietary
data would be permitted to use any encryption program
which the government did not already possess a key to.
WHAT TO DO?
the bill has not been introduced, any pre-emptive attempts
to influence members of Congress would have questionable
effects. A member's response would correctly be, "I have
no power to do anything until the bill is introduced." However,
the actions of the Attorney General and, by implication,
the President, the Vice President and the Speaker of
the House are unethical and dishonest, if not illegal.
It couldn't hurt to let them know that you are watching
for this bill's introduction and how they will respond
when it comes time.
wishing to make their voices heard on Patriot II should
direct their comments to the Department of Justice, the
White House and the Speaker. Their statements should
be bold and demand that these institutions follow the
law and maintain good faith with the American people.
the bill is introduced, most likely after the commencement
of hostilities in Iraq or another convenient terror attack,
the moment - perhaps the last one possible - when Congress
can step up to the plate and do its job the way it is
obliged to, will have presented itself. If it passes
as it is written Patriot II will signal a final breach
of contract between the government and the people.