Sunday, December 28, 2003

Patriot Act II stealthily signed into law

From the San Antonio Current, a very depressing piece of news:

"On December 13, when U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush not only celebrated with his national security team, but also pulled out his pen and signed into law a bill that grants the FBI sweeping new powers. A White House spokesperson explained the curious timing of the signing - on a Saturday - as "the President signs bills seven days a week." But the last time Bush signed a bill into law on a Saturday happened more than a year ago - on a spending bill that the President needed to sign, to prevent shuttng down the federal government the following Monday.

By signing the bill on the day of Hussein's capture, Bush effectively consigned a dramatic expansion of the USA Patriot Act to a mere footnote. Consequently, while most Americans watched as Hussein was probed for head lice, few were aware that the FBI had just obtained the power to probe their financial records, even if the feds don't suspect their involvement in crime or terrorism. . .

Congress passed the legislation around Thanksgiving. Except for U.S. Representative Charlie Gonzalez, all San Antonio's House members voted for the act. The Senate passed it with a voice vote to avoid individual accountability. While broadening the definition of "financial institution," the Bush administration
is ramping up provisions within the 2001 USA Patriot Act, which granted the FBI the authority to obtain client records from banks by merely requesting the records in a "National Security Letter." To get the records, the FBI doesn't have to appear before a judge, nor demonstrate "probable cause" - reason to
believe that the targeted client is involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Moreover, the National Security Letters are attached with a gag order, preventing any financial institution from informing its clients that their records have been surrendered to the FBI. If a financial institution breaches the gag order, it faces criminal penalties. And finally, the FBI will no longer be required to report to Congress how often they have used the National Security Letters."

David Martin's entire article can be viewed here.


See also:
Statement on H.R. 2417 (Statement by the President)
December 13, 2003
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/12/20031213-3.html

H.R. 2417, INTELLIGENCE AUTHORIZATION AGREEMENT
http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2003_cr/h112203.html

Under Bush, Expanding Secrecy
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post:
Tuesday, December 23, 2003; Page A19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A22764-2003Dec22.html

WITH A WHISPER, NOT A BANG
By David Martin
12/24/2003, San Antonio Current
http://www.sacurrent.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=10705756&BRD=2318&PAG=461&dept_id=482778&rfi=6

Posted at 04:27 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink

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