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The Patriot Act is up for renewal on June 1, this year. It must be reformed to protect Americans against the bulk collection of private communications, and other transgressions of our rights. We do not need to give up all our rights to privacy for the protection of the nation. Congressman Sensenbrenner, the author of the Patriot Act says himself that he and his committee never intended the act to provide for the bulk gathering of the private communications of all Americans. I have written an email today to President Obama at the White House asking that the Patriot Act be reformed to protect American privacy.
How about you?
Here’s what the ACLU has to say about this issue. By the way, that’s what Edward Snowden was trying to say when he gave up much information about this to journalists, and that’s what America’s newest, besets comedian journalist, John Oliver, explained in his show on Sunday when he ran his interview in Moscow with Snowden. Oliver ought to win a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for helping make this issue transparent for the American people.
What You Should Know
On May 26, 2011, Congress passed a four-year extension of three expiring Patriot Act provisions without making much-needed changes to the overly broad surveillance bill. The extended provisions are set now set to expire on June 1, 2015. Despite bills pending in both the House and the Senate to amend the three expiring provisions and other sections of the Patriot Act, Congress decided instead to move ahead with a straightforward reauthorization.
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More About the Patriot Act
» A Primer
» Myths & Realities
» Section 215
» Talking Points
» Community Resolutions
Reclaiming Patriotism: A Call to Reconsider the Patriot Act
Despite the many amendments to these laws since 9/11, Congress and the public have yet to receive real information about how these powerful tools are being used to collect information on Americans and how that information is being used. All of these laws work together to create a surveillance superstructure – and Congress must understand how it really works to create meaningful protections for civil liberties.
The ACLU’s recent report, Reclaiming Patriotism, provides more information on parts of the Patriot Act that need to be amended. The three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act give the government sweeping authority to spy on individuals inside the United States, and in some cases, without any suspicion of wrongdoing. All three should be allowed to expire if they are not amended to include privacy protections to protect personal information from government overreach.
Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no showing that the “thing” pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person’s privacy. Congress must ensure that things collected with this power have a meaningful nexus to suspected terrorist activity or it should be allowed to expire.
Section 206 of the Patriot Act, also known as “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, permits the government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders that identify neither the person nor the facility to be tapped. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require government to state with particularity what it seeks to search or seize. Section 206 should be amended to mirror similar and longstanding criminal laws that permit roving wiretaps, but require the naming of a specific target. Otherwise, it should expire.
Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, or the so-called “Lone Wolf” provision, permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-US persons who are not affiliated with a foreign organization. Such an authorization, granted only in secret courts is subject to abuse and threatens our longtime understandings of the limits of the government’s investigatory powers within the borders of the United States. This provision has never been used and should be allowed to expire outright.
The bill also fails to amend other portions of the Patriot Act in dire need of reform, most notably those relating to the issuance and use of national security letters (NSLs). NSLs permit the government to obtain the communication, financial and credit records of anyone deemed relevant to a terrorism investigation even if that person is not suspected of unlawful behavior. Numerous Department of Justice Inspector General reports have confirmed that tens of thousands of these letters are issued every year and they are used to collect information on people two and three times removed from a terrorism suspect. NSLs also come with a nondisclosure requirement that precludes a court from determining whether the gag is necessary to protect national security. The NSL provisions should be amended so that they collect information only on suspected terrorists and the gag should be modified to permit meaningful court review for those who wish to challenge nondisclosure orders.
I wonder if increasing incidents of violence by and against police are another symptom of emerging class struggle in American society, brought on by dramatically increasing economic bipolarity, which itself is inculcated by lack of family values and education and reduced middle class opportunity on the one hand, and increasing economic and political leverage and social insularity by the highly educated and wealthy on the other?
Have things really changed for the have-nots? The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median age of front-line fast food workers, earning just above the minimum wage, is now more than 29, unlike the teenagers employed in such low level jobs in the 1950s through 90s. And 50% of those workers are now on public assistance, vs. 25% in the general population, indicating the inadequacy of such low wages. We see police increasingly armed to the teeth. The numbers of the underemployed and those not even seeking employment is soaring.
Meanwhile, we see the dissolution of conventional political parties on the right and left, as so-called representative government seeks solid bases of social support among a fractured and politically disillusioned populace. Five percent of the population controls 95 percent of the wealth generated, and for the common man and woman, the costs of education for youth and retirement for the aged soar, with diminished resources to pay for the empowerment of education and dignity in old age.
All of this social stress is further exacerbated by the costs of funding unending military adventures, while American domestic infrastructure grows old and unreliable.
The solidarity and survival of the American experiment in democratic government, “of and by the people,” is imperiled, as evidenced by such growing symptoms and consequences of class struggle, and further unwinding of our culture is in store, unless the people awaken to the values of a society with mutual respect, common purpose and honor among its citizenry.
Only 8% of you approve of what Congress has been doing.
Here’s one BIG reason to vote this December, and vote OUT all incumbent candidates and bring in fresh blood.
In the aftermath of the school massacre at Sandy Hook, two years ago this December, 92% of gun owners wanted to see mandatory background checks required for all gun purchases. Yet Congress did nothing. In some states, up to 95% of the population wanted background checks, yet the Congress was afraid of the remaining 5%.
Instituting background checks for gun purchases and coming down hard on illegal gun trafficking by gangs and drug addicts could make a BIG difference in community safety across this nation, without restricting the legal ownership of guns one bit. Yet Congress did NOTHING.
Where were you when you heard about Sandy Hook? (I was driving home from officiating at a cause-related communications awards program I support at Bradley University.)
Where do you stand now?
Vote OUT Congress (of BOTH parties) this December. Send a new message, and a new Congress, to Washington.
Congress shouldn’t be in a fight about whether to fund the U.S. government, closing it down in the process, but better in a fight over how much (a budget) and for which things (an agenda). In Australia, they have a solution when both houses are deadlocked, and it’s called double dissolution. In such a circumstance, their Congress is dissolved and a new election is held. What we need in the U.S. is a new Congress, because the one we have in stalemated and inoperative. By the way, why are they getting paid now? Oh, that’s right, they make the rules. We’re about ready for a quiet, non-fatal version of the French Revolution. In fact, France has peacefully replaced their entire government six times since the real revolution. Wouldn’t that be a “revolutionary” concept for our loggerheaded Congress to consider?
Here’s a copy of a note to a friend who asked about my opinion of the recent Benghazi hearings:
Bottom line: I fear that our government structure and processes, including the current two-party system, is failing the republic, and us.
Today, it is predicted that Oklahoma City can expect their highest recorded temperature — 114 — ever! Yet cultural disinformation efforts designed to discredit 6,000 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate that global climate change is rife persist. Not one such study demonstrates the opposite. There is not a comprehensive energy policy in the U.S., much less a climate change policy. Neither Presidential candidates mention climate change, much less make public warnings nor propose comprehensive initiatives related to climate change.
Yes, unemployment and economic disruption and erosion of education are major American issues. But without an effective strategy to reduce the negative effects of climate change, we are burying our head as to the future. None of these other issues will be solved with addressing climate change. One of the few leaders to address climate change through constructive analysis and positive proposals is senator John Kerry, in this address before Congress just yesterday. Take a listen: http://sn128w.snt128.mail.live.com/default.aspx#n=180166905&fid=1&fav=1&mid=7e19162a-dc33-11e1-8362-00215ad8015c
Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, please make climate change policy a priority, now! Humans are almost surely the cause, but even if we are only part of it, climate change is real, and we can act to moderate and reduce its effects on humanity, which there is still some time left.
Yes, the Super Committee empowered by Congress and the President to work out part of our national debt issue, after Congress itself failed to do so — has failed.
What to do with the “Blooper Committee?” I think the people, including Congress, the President, the media and the people should call for their mass resignation from Congress. They have failed all of those groups, and failed in their jobs. They should resign, now, admitting their failure and sending a message to the rest of Congress and the nation, that failure is no longer an option for our leaders.
They have failed to lead. Give the next guy (or gal) a chance. It’s not a real gallows, just a political one.