Friday, June 10, 2005

USA Patriot Act Revisited Again

Provision 213 authorizes “surreptitious search warrants and seizures upon a showing of reasonable necessity and eliminates the requirement of Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that immediate notification of seized items be provided."

What is reasonable necessity? Is it reasonable for the government to be able to obtain information from an Internet Service Provider without a Judicial Warrant? Anything posted to the internet (e-mail, websites, FTP sites) can be investigated without warrant. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the FBI and CIA act perfectly conscionable, but the world is not perfect and the USA Patriot act has no checks or balances to make sure that what it used for is conscionable.
From Wikipedia:
“The FBI ordered a handful of journalists that had written about computer hacker Adrian Lamo to turn over their notes and other information under the auspices of the PATRIOT Act.[18] Supporters of the PATRIOT Act reply that journalists—like all other citizens—are not privileged from being subjected to subpoenas when they possess information relevant to a criminal investigation.
The ACLU filed a countersuit on April 6, 2004 claiming that a section of the USA PATRIOT ACT was unconstitutional because it allowed the FBI to demand financial records and other documents from small businesses without a warrant or judicial approvial. The specific action in question was the request of the FBI for the account information for users of an Internet service provider.
Citing possible secrecy provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Department of Justice barred the ACLU from releasing the text of a countersuit for three weeks. [19] After judicial and congressional oversight, sections of the countersuit that did not violate secrecy rules of the USA PATRIOT ACT were released.”

“Reasonable necessity” could very easily begin to limit our free speech. As more people are becoming afraid to search for and distribute new ideas that are contrary to the governments position we will see less diverse thinking and less distribution of ideas, which further empowers officials to do what they please because people will be too afraid to speak up against them.

Also, if the government seizes items in the search for criminal activity but does not charge that person with any criminal activity then no notification of the seized items (or in this case, most likely: seized information) need occur. That is extremely disturbing. The government can now tap any phone line, receive information from any ISP, or get DNA samples from your house, without you ever knowing about it, and it is legal. There is, as far as I know, no regulation on how that seized information can be used either, as long as the owner of the info is not put in jeopardy. The government could begin tapping phone lines to get information such as relationship affairs, your admitted weaknesses or fears, etc. This could then be used against you in the future in ways that could never be traced to misuse of the USA Patriot act. Of course the government was capable of doing all this before the USA Patriot act but it was not legal, people had the right to deny the government information without worry of prosecution. No longer.

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