Patriot Act

14 Years of the Patriot Act

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Today (Oct. 26) marks the fourteenth anniversary of the passage of the Patriot Act, an initiative designed to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to monitor and deter potential terrorist threats.

Though key provisions of the Patriot Act expired earlier this year, many of them were restored by the Senate via passage of the USA Freedom Act, and will be effective through 2019. At the same time, the Senate also voted overwhelmingly to end the NSA’s unmonitored mass surveillance and data collection of phone and email records, formerly justified under the language of the Patriot Act. 

Weekly Wrap 6.5.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. I Went to Church with Bruce Jenner, and Here’s What Caitlyn Taught Me About Jesus
Caitlyn knows who Jesus is, and Jesus knows her by name. Whether that sits comfortably on a timeline or blog comment, I know firsthand that Caitlyn has heard the good news. And, Caitlyn has taught me more about Jesus.”

2. And the Award for Trailblazing Feminist Icon Goes to — Miss Piggy
The Sackler Center for Feminist Art awarded the Muppet with its First Award, which recognizes women for being first in their fields and has included the likes of Sandra Day O’Connor, because the character has “qualities that … women need to have to face the world as it is, and she gives us a good smile on top of it all.”

3. In Baltimore Schools, Free Meals for All
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4. Study Finds Global Warming Hasn’t Slowed
The latest study, published in Science, reverses previously held thought that global warming was on hiatus. Not so, according to the numbers, which were based on what the scientists say is more accurate land and sea temperature measurements.

Senate Lets Patriot Act Provisions, Including Bulk Data Collection, Expire

Image via Blablo101/shutterstock.com
Image via Blablo101/shutterstock.com

The Senate debate period on the Patriot Act ran past midnight Sunday night, effectively allowing three provisions of the controversial act to expire. Despite warnings of national security risks, "it is clear that the lapse will not come close to debilitating counterterrorism efforts," according to CNN.

The NSA's bulk data collection program was one of the provisions to expire, officially shutting down by 8 p.m. Sunday night. 

The Senate is expected to restore some form of these provisions by midweek. 

When 'Extremism' is Normalized

An interesting article from Glenn Greenwald examines how previously radical legislation has become accepted as normal in the U.S.:

Remember when, in the wake of the 9/11 attack, the Patriot Act was controversial, held up as the symbolic face of Bush/Cheney radicalism and widely lamented as a threat to core American liberties and restraints on federal surveillance and detention powers? Yet now, the Patriot Act is quietly renewed every four years by overwhelming majorities in both parties (despite substantial evidence of serious abuse), and almost nobody is bothered by it any longer. That’s how extremist powers become normalized: they just become such a fixture in our political culture that we are trained to take them for granted, to view the warped as normal.

Read more here

Demolition Democracy

Recently the Associated Press identified some of the fundamental changes to Americans' legal rights by the Bush administration through the USA Patriot Act and the Office of Homeland Security:

Freedom of association. To assist terror investigations, government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity.

Freedom of information. Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records requests.

Freedom of speech. Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.

Right to legal representation. Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.

Freedom from unreasonable searches. To assist terror investigations, government may search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause.

Right to a speedy and public trial. Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.

Right to liberty. Americans may be jailed without charges or confronting witnesses against them.

Source: The Associated Press, 2002.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine March-April 2003
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Check This Out…If You Dare!

Abbie Hoffman was having a bit of fun with the publishing industry's deepest fears when he titled his 1970 work Steal This Book. But maybe Hoffman was on to something. We might be heading toward a time when stealing books is the only way to avoid having your personal reading material fall under the scrutiny of the federal government.

In October 2001 Congress passed the USA Patriot Act as a nearly unanimous response to the vulnerability felt by many Americans after the tragedy of Sept. 11. The Patriot Act is a 132-page patchwork of new proposals and amendments to already existing laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and ostensibly gives law enforcement additional tools and authority to track suspected terrorists.

One little-known aspect of this act may, and perhaps should, affect your reading enjoyment this summer. If you are sitting on the beach reading this, you might want to make a mental list of what you bought (or checked out) to take on vacation. The bad news is, under this act, Attorney General John Ashcroft may already have such a list for you.

The USA Patriot Act has given new authority to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to track down just what you have been reading—or at least buying and checking out. Under the FISA provisions, the FBI can bring a court order gained in secret proceedings (ex parte) requiring a bookstore or library to turn over "business records." And the library or bookstore is forbidden from seeking legal counsel or contacting the individual whose material is being requested.

Read the Full Article

Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
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