In this season of 10-year anniversaries, one almost got by me, just as it almost got by many of us on October 26, 2001. The Ashcroft Justice Department, which could hardly find a case of discrimination against a Black person or a woman to prosecute, and was busy dismantling its Civil Rights division, had apparently been busy elsewhere. Even before 9/11, they had written the USA PATRIOT Act (that’s “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” for those of you not patriotic enough to think that up yourselves).
They had cobbled bits of nefarious repression not included in the Clinton administration’s also egregiously-named 1996 “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.” This law has its own deep problems, as a vehicle for stepping up federal executions, and criminalizing protest. The Bush regime built on it, and not because of the 9/11 attacks; a bill that long could not have been written in 15 days.
But let’s just be clear. The Patriot Act is domestic political repression, widening the government’s power to spy on people electronically, break into our homes and offices physically in “sneak and peak” operations, view our email, reading habits, photos, and much more.
I thought this might be a big day: 10 years of a huge escalation of repression, but found a total of 38 articles in a Google search on “USA Patriot Act” published on the anniversary.
Carol Rose, in Boston.com points out how the act is actually used
The Patriot Act hasn’t been about getting the bad guys – namely, terrorists or even criminals. The government had the power to do that without the Patriot Act. Instead, the Patriot Act gives the government the power secretly to collect and forever keep information on ordinary people who are not suspected of doing anything wrong…It gives the Feds virtually unchecked power to spy on ordinary Americans without a warrant.
Carrie Johnson, for NPR quotes the ACLU’s report on the Patriot Act:
“We’re now finding from public reports that less than 1 percent of these sneak-and-peek searches are happening for terrorism investigations,” says Michelle Richardson, who works for the ACLU in Washington. “They’re instead being used primarily in drug cases, in immigration cases, and some fraud.”
The ACLU filed suit today to learn more about the secret use of the Patriot Act, citing an example of how there is no check on its use
One section in particular, Section 215, gave the FBI unprecedented authority to obtain “any tangible thing” for an investigation related to international terrorism or espionage. The FBI has the power to use Section 215 to collect records held by businesses such as hotels, banks, stores, and internet service providers. They need to show only that the information is “relevant” to an investigation and, in 2010, every single 215 request was granted.
Michelle Richardson of the ACLU warns us of more to come, says NPR.
“The White House’s cybersecurity proposal right now makes the Patriot Act look quaint,” Richardson says. “And really, the collection that it would allow would really outpace anything that’s probably being done under the Patriot Act.”
The ACLU calls for the act to be reformed.
I say the whole thing is unjust, fascistic, and should be repealed. It’s the government that should be transparent, providing privacy for its citizens, and not vice versa.