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Feingold Was Right

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, only one person in the entire U.S. Senate, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, had the courage to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act. And with the recent revelations that the NSA has access to nearly everything you say or do on the internet, it’s worth revisiting his statement on the specific provision being used to justify such intrusions.

One provision that troubles me a great deal is a provision that permits the government under FISA to compel the production of records from any business regarding any person, if that information is sought in connection with an investigation of terrorism or espionage.

Now we’re not talking here about travel records pertaining to a terrorist suspect, which we all can see can be highly relevant to an investigation of a terrorist plot. FISA already gives the FBI the power to get airline, train, hotel, car rental and other records of a suspect.

But under this bill, the government can compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone — perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by — the target of the investigation.

And under this new provisions all business records can be compelled, including those containing sensitive personal information like medical records from hospitals or doctors, or educational records, or records of what books someone has taken out of the library. This is an enormous expansion of authority, under a law that provides only minimal judicial supervision.

And remember, we have strong evidence that this power to get business records has been abused by the FBI through the use of National Security Letters and that the new powers they got from the Patriot Act have routinely been used on non-terrorist investigations. From 2006 to 2009, for instance, the FBI used “sneak and peek” warrants nearly 1800 times. Only 15 of those were for terrorism investigations. 1,618 times they were used in drug cases and 122 times in fraud cases. So now, I do not trust the government with this kind of power.

Comments

  1. unbound says

    About 25% to 35% of Americans knew the Patriot Act was bad at that time, 1% of the Senate knew it was bad at that time.

    Now about 25% to 35% of Americans know the Patriot Act is bad, 0% of the Senate knows that it is bad. Ain’t progress lovely?

  2. davidct says

    In the aftermath of 9/11 the majority of Americans did not object to signing away our rights with the Patriot act. It took a whistle blower to point out what is now legal and they get upset. Some of that may be related to the feeling powers given to Bush should not be used by Obama.

  3. =8)-DX says

    Gosh, do I get to feel smug about our European personal information laws? I mean the local police and anti-corruption police here regularly wiretap, but they need a judge to issue a warrant..

  4. Draken says

    On the other hand, doesn’t EU now hand over all flight records over to the USA, voluntarily and automatically?

  5. alwayscurious says

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Sensenbrenner
    Just looked up Sensenbrenner….pleading ignorance is really his only, pathetic defense. Apparently even he didn’t like provisions of the Patriot Act: namely the ones recommended by the 9/11 commission. And when meetings got too real for him (investigating human rights abuses & challenging Patriot Act articles), he picked up the gavel & walked out–slamming the door & cutting the electricity.

  6. baal says

    What julial said in 1. It’s not a free society if folks are feeling the need to self censor about the bound of government action. The freedom of speech was seen by the founders as one of the checks and balance on concentration of political power.

  7. ricko says

    Sen. Feingold lost because he was a very poor candidate and an even poorer Senator. If he’s had a challenge in the Democratic primary this could have been avoided.

    Rep. Sensennbrenner is my Congressman, and he’s a totally drip. Yeah, the problems in HIS bill just struck him NOW. Bush was doing it, it was all good. And you can’t even write to the Congressman because he never sees it.

  8. grumpyoldfart says

    Come on America, sing it with me:

    “Land of the free and the home of the brave.”

    (Ah no, that first bit is wrong isn’t it?)

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    … the FBI used “sneak and peek” warrants nearly 1800 times. Only 15 of those were for terrorism investigations…

    And how many of those were just to facilitate entrapment operations against ignorant loudmouths who otherwise never would have done diddly squat?

    grumpyoldfart @ # 11 – Both parts have been wrong for a long, long time.

  10. DaveL says

    But under this bill, the government can compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone — perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by — the target of the investigation.

    Ha! How about “someone who used the same wireless carrier” as the target? Because that’s apparently all that they figure they require.

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