posted on Jan, 30 2004 @ 11:08 AM
The Bush administration has sent a stern warning to members of congress not to tinker with the Internet surveillance powers that the Patriot Act
awarded to federal police and other agencies, this message has been met with raised eyebrows and clenched jaws by both sides of the floor.
In a four-page tirade to Senators on Thursday, Attorney General and surveillance king John Ashcroft said that defanging the controversial law, which
has been criticised by every major Democratic presidential contender and even members of the republican party , would "undermine our ongoing campaign
to detect and prevent catastrophic terrorist attacks." Were Congress to vote to amend the Patriot Act, Ashcroft indicated, President Bush would veto
Ashcroft was responding to a proposal in the Senate called the Security and Freedom Ensured Act (Safe), which would amend the USA Patriot Act by
slapping limits on current police practices relating to surveillance and search warrants. It is sponsored by Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho and
has 12 co-sponsors, including two other Republicans.
Many portions of the Safe Act affect the ability of federal police to conduct Internet surveillance against not only terrorists but also suspected
perpetrators of a broad range of drug-related, computer hacking and white collar crimes. The measure would amend the Patriot Act to require, for
instance, that electronic-surveillance orders specify either the identity or location of the suspect and that the person be there at the time--a
departure from current practice.
Ashcroft confirms and identifies the fact that no terrorist plots that were thwarted by the existence of the USA Patriot Act which renders many of his
previous justifications to be false. It doesn't contain a single real example of why passage of the Safe Act would impede antiterrorism efforts.
It's based entirely on speculation and misleading, slanted legal analysis.
Another section of the Safe Act that Ashcroft criticized would increase privacy protections for library patrons who use the free public computers for
e-mail and Web browsing, countering earlier efforts to put them under surveillance..
"The Safe Act would make it more difficult, in some circumstances, to obtain information about e-mails sent from public computer terminals at
libraries than it would be to obtain the same information about e-mails sent from home computers," Ashcroft ranted. "Ironically, it would extend a
greater degree of privacy to activities that occur in a public place than to those taking place in a home."
In Bush's State of the Union address earlier on in this month, George called on Congress to renew the Patriot Act. Some portions--though not
all--expire Dec. 31.
When enacting the USA Patriot Act in a hurried response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Congress made it much easier for federal police to
obtain "pen register" and "trap and trace" orders that could identify a suspect's e-mail correspondents and Web sites visited. The Safe Act would
permit those portions of the law to expire at the end of next year. But Ashcroft said: "It will still be needed by law enforcement after Dec. 31,
2005, as the Internet is in no danger of disappearing."
The Safe Act was introduced in the Senate in late October, and it has not had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee. A similar bill has been
introduced in the House of Representatives.