As if Patriot Act 1 wasn’t enough, John Ashcroft’s Justice Department is pushing a new set of infringements known as Patriot Act 2:
- under Patriot II, federal agents would not need a subpoena or obtain a court order to access our consumer credit reports. This provision would open the wedge for TIA to be implemented through a huge database. Our credit reports are repositories of a great deal of sensitive information – from our employment history to where we shop, borrow and transact.
Justice won’t even tell us what actions have been taken under Patriot 1:
- The American Civil Liberties Union, The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Foundation have sued the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act in an effort to extract more information about the government’s application of the Patriot Act.
….The FBI can walk into any bookstore or library with a search warrant, demand sales or lending records for anyone suspected of “international terrorism” or “clandestine activities.” The employee has no recourse but to turn the records over, then cannot discuss this activity with anyone other than his/her attorney. The House Judiciary Committee and representatives of booksellers want to know how many times this has happened. I’m not sure that the booksellers have any right other than courtesy to the information, but surely the House Judiciary Committee, with legal responsibility for overseeing the Patriot Act, does.
Glenn Reynolds reports good news on that front:
- House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. said Thursday that he would fight any effort now to make permanent many of the expanded police powers enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of the USA Patriot Act.
“That will be done over my dead body,” said Sensenbrenner in an interview.
The Menomonee Falls Republican also said it was “way premature” for Congress to consider a new package of anti-terrorism proposals being drafted by the Justice Department – a so-called “Patriot Act Two.”
Before that happens, he said, the “burden of proof” is on the Justice Department to prove the merits of what he called “Patriot Act One.”[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
Sensenbrenner is making the obvious point that if we don’t know what the consequences are of the first Patriot Act – if the Justice Department won’t tell us what they’ve done with the extra powers – then it would be immeasureably stupid for Congress to make those extra powers permanent, or to expand them even further with PA2.
With this kind of track record, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ashcroft’s Justice Dept. has sided with the RIAA in their DMCA case against Verizon:
- The U.S. government sided with the recording industry in its dispute with Verizon Communications Inc. on Friday, saying a digital-copyright law invoked by record labels to track down Internet song-swappers did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
….”We would have expected they would have recognized there are important privacy and safety issues beyond the narrow copyright claims here,” Verizon Vice President Sarah Deutsch, who is also associate general counsel, told Reuters.
….The Recording Industry Association of America says Verizon is required under law to help its members protect their copyrights. Verizon says it is willing to help, but that the law only applies to Web pages stored on its computers, not the “peer to peer” networks like Kazaa that merely travel across its wires.
A district court sided with the recording industry in January. Verizon appealed the decision, and is arguing that the names of suspected copyright violators should not be revealed in the meantime.
Verizon argues that the law in question, the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, known as the DMCA, violates free-speech and due-process rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.
….Justice also said that the law did not violate due-process protections because nothing in the Constitution specifically barred the investigative process set up by the DMCA, which requires record labels to get approval from a court clerk before asking Verizon or other Internet providers to surrender customer names.
Verizon argues that record labels should be required to get permission from a judge, rather than a clerk, a move that would add another legal hurdle to any copyright investigation.
Verizon says such a move is necessary to protect user privacy because otherwise any copyright holder — or anybody claiming to be a copyright holder — could easily obtain the name and address of any Internet user. [Washington Post]
How can you grant corporations or other “copyright holders” unlimited subpoena powers without judicial supervision? Since when did the US become a plutocracy?
Peter Swire, the Clinton administration’s top privacy official and now a professor at Ohio State University, made this statement back in January:
- · “The subpoenas will become a new form of spam. Fraudulent subpoenas will be easy to file, with no judicial oversight. Any of us who visits a website, but don’t want to reveal our names, will now be at serious risk of being tracked back to our homes.”
· “I have reviewed all the U.S. privacy laws. I helped write some of them. But I have never seen any provision like this. There is no due process under this provision before a person’s identity is revealed. There is no judicial supervision.”
· “This provision, as interpreted by the Court, would have a serious chilling effect on free speech on the Internet. When every web site can learn your name, will you feel free to surf the Net? What will you write if you know that your e-mail handle can easily be turned into your real name and address?”
We are winning the War on Terror, let us not be complacent in the War on our Civil Liberties.