Big Brother is watching you
January 27, 2006
IN THE name of fighting the “war on terror,” the Bush administration says that it has to take steps here at home to protect us. Fighting terrorism comes before protecting civil liberties, goes the argument.
As White House strategist Karl Rove told the Republican National Committee last week, “President Bush believes if al-Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why.”
But as each new scandal about secret spying and government targeting of immigrants and peaceful protesters comes to light, it’s clearer than ever that the government’s idea of “protecting” U.S. citizens at home involves shredding our civil liberties. NICOLE COLSON looks at what’s at stake in the Bush administration’s attack on our rights.
Under the Patriot Act, it is legal for the government to:
-- Look at your private medical records, what you buy, what you study and what books you read. Section 215 of the Patriot Act gives the FBI and other law enforcement agencies access to a broad variety of personal records without having to have probable cause or obtain a search warrant. It also makes it a crime for those who are compelled to turn over records--be they business owners, doctors, librarians, etc.--to reveal that they have been forced to give up the information.
-- Search your home without telling you. Under Section 213, the government can conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of an individual’s home or office. They can take pictures, seize property and even collect DNA samples--without ever having to tell the individual that a warrant was issued.
-- Label protesters who engage in civil disobedience as “domestic terrorists.” Under Section 802 of the Patriot Act, “domestic terrorism” is defined as any act that is “dangerous to human life,” involves a violation of any state or federal law, and is intended to influence government policy. That definition is so broad that it could apply to protesters at an antiwar march where there are minor acts of vandalism, or a civil disobedience action where protesters resist arrest.
-- Seize business and financial records. Section 505 allows the government to use National Security Letters (NSLs) to seize business and financial records--as well as, in some instances, the membership lists of organizations that provide Internet service. In November, the Washington Post revealed that the FBI now issues more than 30,000 National Security Letters each year--up from a few hundred a year before the Patriot Act.
-- Detain immigrants for a week without charges--and indefinitely on minor charges. Section 412 allows the attorney general to “certify” that an immigrant or non-citizen is a terrorist or a threat to national security--without having to show probable cause or charge or convict them of any specific crime. That person can then be detained for a week without being charged with any crime. They can be detained longer, as long as the government can find an excuse like a minor immigration violation to charge them with. And if a suspect in jail on an immigration violation cannot be deported, they can be detained indefinitely--as long as the attorney general certifies every six months that national security is at stake.
Will they outlaw peaceful protests?
PROTESTING AGAINST the Bush administration could become a lot more difficult if the latest version of the Patriot Act passes without revision.
Judging from news reports, the Secret Service’s definition of “disruptive behavior” includes anyone expressing an opinion contrary to the president’s.
It's a fairly long read, but well worth it if you are at all concerned about your rights and liberties guarenteed by the Constitution.
Here's the link to the rest of the article: http://www.socialistworker.org