America's New War?
There are two articles on this page. As you read through them especially the second, which gives examples of what this legislation will permit keep in mind that "terrorism" can be as loosely defined as the power elites wish it to be.
Next, consider those who have suggested there are no difference between the Republicans or the Democrats. We are told that this legislation was requested by the Bush Administration to ensure that there would be no more terrorist attacks on America.
Ask yourself, how is this attack on our privacy any different than the
search legislation pushed by the Clinton Justice Department?
By Declan McCullagh
October 25, 2001
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate is set to end a month-long debate over balancing freedom and security on Thursday by granting police more surveillance power and sharply curtailing Americans' privacy.
Since the House of Representatives already has voted for the anti-terrorism bill (400 KB), the widely expected Senate endorsement would send the labyrinthine legislation to President Bush for his signature later this week.
Approval in both chambers -- the House voted 357-66 for the so-called USA Act on Wednesday -- is set to take place as fears of anthrax have snarled the usual course of business on Capitol Hill and temporarily shuttered most of Congress' office buildings.
The clandestine process that Senate and House leaders used to usher versions of the bill through the legislative process with little opportunity for public debate drew condemnations from a minority of politicians.
"The report has just come to us," said Rep. Robert Scott (D-Virginia) during the debate that began Tuesday. "It would be helpful if we would wait for some period of time so that we can at least review what we are voting on, but I guess that is not going to stop us, so here we are."
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) was far more sarcastic: "This bill, ironically, which has been given all of these high-flying acronyms -- it is the Patriot bill, it is the USA bill, it is the stand-up-and-sing-the-Star-Spangled-Banner bill -- has been debated in the most undemocratic way possible, and it is not worthy of this institution."
Even though many Republicans seemed worried about the additional police powers, nearly all GOP members of the House decided to rally behind their president. Of the 66 votes against the legislation in the House, only three were Republicans.
"We learned something six weeks ago," said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Alabama). "It was a very painful lesson. We learned that legislation was needed to provide law enforcement and intelligence additional tools that they needed to address the threat of terrorism and terrorists."
Added Rep. Marge Roukema (R-New Jersey): "I would like to say to some of the naysayers that complain about the provisions, as to whether or not they deny due process or whatever, the question has been asked, are we endangering the rights and privacy of innocent Americans. The answer is no, but it does give our law enforcement officials the requirements that they need for their careful investigation."
While the final anti-terrorism bill -- call it USA Act v3.0 -- is not as extreme as earlier drafts, key portions suggested by the Justice Department have emerged from closed-door negotiations without modification.
The USA Act permits police to obtain court orders to conduct secret searches of Americans' homes and offices, browse medical and financial records without showing evidence of a crime and monitor e-mail and Web activity without a judge's approval in some circumstances.
In a compromise between the House and the Senate, some of the additional eavesdropping powers automatically expire in December 2005. The Senate version did not include an expiration date.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said that the Senate likely will consider the USA Act on Thursday afternoon.
Opponents of the USA Act put a brave face on bitter defeat Wednesday.
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said it "applauded the 66 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the final version of anti-terrorism legislation, saying that they acted bravely to preserve civil liberties in America in the face of enormous pressure from the Bush Administration."
Jeanne Butterfield, director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said: "I think that the legislation as it came out goes a long way in achieving the sort of balance we were seeking.... The extraordinary powers to detain people based on meeting a very broad definition of terrorism is a concern still and we will be keeping an eye on that."
Robert Fike, federal affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform, echoed a common theme: Right now it's difficult to reach members of Congress or their aides to lobby them.
"One of the problems we've been having -- and it's not just us, it's everyone in the interest community -- we haven't been able to communicate with Congress," Fike said. "Congress is still working in the Stone Age. Their preferred method of communication is letter. They don't like dealing with e-mail."
Both chambers of Congress had approved different versions of the anti-terrorism bill earlier this month, which led congressional leaders to work out differences and compromise on the current draft.
Ben Polen contributed to this report.
By Declan McCullagh
October 26, 2001
WASHINGTON -- Legislators who sent a sweeping anti-terrorism bill to President Bush this week proudly say that the most controversial surveillance sections will expire in 2005.
Senate Judiciary chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) said that a four-year expiration date "will be crucial in making sure that these new law enforcement powers are not abused." In the House, Bob Barr (R-Georgia) stressed that "we take very seriously the sunset provisions in this bill."
But the Dec. 2005 expiration date embedded in the USA Act -- which the Senate approved 98 to 1 on Thursday -- applies only to a tiny part of the mammoth bill.
After the president signs the measure on Friday, police will have the permanent ability to conduct Internet surveillance without a court order in some circumstances, secretly search homes and offices without notifying the owner, and share confidential grand jury information with the CIA.
Also exempt from the expiration date are investigations underway by Dec. 2005, and any future investigations of crimes that took place before that date.
On Thursday, Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed to publish new guidelines as soon as the president signs the bill, which is expected to happen Friday. "I will issue directives requiring law enforcement to make use of new powers in intelligence gathering, criminal procedure and immigration violations," Ashcroft said.
President Bush said this week that he looks forward to signing the USA Act, which his administration requested in response to the Sep. 11 hijackings, "so that we can combat terrorism and prevent future attacks."
During the Senate debate Thursday, the lone critic of the bill was Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), who introduced an unsuccessful series of pro-privacy amendments earlier this month.
"We in this body have a duty to analyze, to test, to weigh new laws that the zealous and often sincere advocates of security would suggest to us," Feingold said. "This is what I have tried to do with this anti-terrorism bill. And that is why I will vote against this bill."
Feingold said the USA Act "does not strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement and protecting constitutional freedoms."
But not one of his colleagues joined him in dissent. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) seemed to speak for the rest of the Senate when saying "the homefront is a war front" and arguing that police needed new surveillance powers.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) did not vote.
Other sections of the USA Act, which the House approved by a 357 to 66 vote on Wednesday, that do not expire include the following:
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