From the October 2001 Idaho Observer:

The PATRIOT Act: A parting shot from sore losers?

Legislative analysis from The Idaho Observer

The PATRIOT Act was introduced into the House October 2, in apparent response to the September 11 WTC/Pentagon attack. At first blush, because of its name, its list of sponsors and cosponsors, its short title (which creates the oxymoronical acronym PATRIOT) and its table of contents, we assumed the act was to be rushed through the legislative process and signed into law to give birth to the Brave New American police state.

Congress' decision to entitle the bill: “Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) was a deliberate affront to those commonly referred to by them and their media as “anti-government extremists”. A fairly close inspection of the 37-page bill indicates that it is merely a “housekeeping” bill that effectively straightens out some language and reiterates terms and conditions that already exist in U.S. Code.

Interestingly, most of the subjects in Title I, on Intelligence Gathering have a sunset clause. These relatively minor code revisions “shall cease to have any effect on December 31, 2003.” We must wonder why Congress would waste the time necessary to change the code for only a couple of years. Perhaps the entire purpose of the bill is to get a rise out of anti-bad government activists that have effectively put bad government in check? Is the PATRIOT Act, which is fundamentally a non act, a tacit admission by Congress that the “patriot” movement has beaten them at their own game and they are simply sore losers that would rather start WWIII than admit defeat?

A few highlights of the pending PATRIOT Act

Under this legislation, there is a mandatory detention of any suspected terrorist that endangers the national security of the U.S. They can be held for seven days unless they are charged with a crime, in which case they can be held longer. Habeas Corpus relief will be available only in the District Court in Washington D.C.

The PATRIOT Act proposes to triple the Border Patrol and INS staff on the northern border. The INS is to receive $50 million more for technology improvements and additional equipment.

There are also a number of new immigration procedures and relief for the families of aliens who died in the events of September 11.

Who is a terrorist?

There is one area of this bill that should have every American concerned. Laws are often a matter of definition. In addition to a number of specified criminal acts, “Federal terrorism offense” is also defined as “an offense that is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion; or to retaliate against government conduct.”

That definition could include a very broad range of formerly constitutionally protected activities, that no doubt will be expanded upon once the judiciary begins molding the definition by establishing case law.

Why does the definition only include acts against the government? What about acts of terrorism against the citizen?

Will papers such as this one become terrorist by definition because we are “calculated to influence the conduct of government? Do we intimidate those in government by exposing their conduct? Will publishing become an act of “retaliation?”

Some businesses and even government entities have recently prohibited employees from flying the U.S. flag because it is considered offensive to some. Will driving around with a hunting rifle in the gun rack of a pick-up become a terrorist act because some government worker feels “intimidated” by it? What will happen to our historical right to protest? Federal Terrorism, under this bill also caries up to a life sentence. What will be the cost of dissent? Such things will only be made worse as the wave of police-state enforced “security” sweeps across our nation.

PATRIOT Act amends criminal procedure?

Historically, the Supreme Court has empowered itself to make and amend the rules of court procedure. Now Congress seeks to override that tradition and amend Criminal Rule 41(a) to allow single jurisdiction search warrant for terrorism. A federal magistrate could authorize searches “outside the district.” Presumably, this open-ended clause could extend even beyond our borders. Federal jurisdiction, once limited to constitutionally acquired federal property, takes another leap and bound under this proposed act.

DNA Analysis

The DNA Analysis Backlog Act (42 USC 14135a(d)(1)) will be amended to include any Federal terrorism offense. Who ever heard of a DNA Analysis Backlog Act?

Extension of jurisdiction

The PATRIOT Act would create even more extraterritorial federal jurisdiction. Well beyond any island, rock or key containing deposits of guano (see 18 USC 7(4)), extraterritorial federal jurisdiction would now include any national of the U. S. who committed or was the victim of terrorism. Jurisdiction would also be extended if the terrorism offense involves a foreign ATM device that is connected to a U. S. account.

A high price

The bill would also allow the seizure of terrorist assets. Rewards paid by the Attorney General for the capture of terrorists would now be unlimited. State Department may pay up to a $25 million award for the capture of terrorists. “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State should...offer a reward of $25,000,000 for Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States.”

Checks and balances

The Department of Justice shall appoint a deputy Inspector General for Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to review information alleging abuses of civil rights, civil liberties, and racial and ethnic profiling by government employees, including those employed by the DOJ.

Can we trust another federal attorney to ensure that his own federal agency will respect our rights--rights that have already been thoroughly trampled beyond recognition? Will this PATRIOT Act be another “tool” to profile real patriots by redefining time honored American traditions as a “Federal terrorism offense?

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