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America's Debate > Archive > Policy Debate Archive > [A] Domestic Policy
President Bush has made some high profile appearances, all in an effort to ask Congress to renew the Patriot Act and it's provisions which are to expire this year. Recently, a committee meeting was abruptly ended when democrats began pressing about civil rights issues and the act. The confrontation(registration required) featured chairman Sensenbrenner up and leaving testimony before it was finished. The ACLU has gone on the attack, highlighting some of the alleged shortcomings of the act that the president they feel, exaggerates.

The president claimed that under the Patriot Act, ‘terrorism’ charges have been brought against more than 400 suspects. A study by Syracuse University, however, found that the vast majority of these were minor, non-terrorism offenses. These individuals posed such little threat to national security that most served no jail time. More importantly, while many of these people were prosecuted under terrorism statutes, these were not all the result of the Patriot Act - they were cases that the government deemed as being related to terrorism. In fact, at recent hearings government witnesses said there had been only a dozen or fewer terrorism prosecutions in the past four years.

The most offensive portion of the President’s remarks was his claim that the Patriot Act is constitutional. The ACLU is actively involved with litigation challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act and the powers it expanded. Some expansions the Patriot Act made to the law have already been ruled unconstitutional. Other challenges are still being considered by the courts."

"The president stressed the role of judges as a check against abuse, but let’s look at the facts. Under section 215 of the Patriot Act, judges who sit on a secret court must approve a request for records about people’s health, wealth or the transactions of their daily life if the law enforcement agents say they want it for a foreign intelligence investigation. None of these requests has ever been denied and the order includes a permanent gag order. And the White House has refused the common sense requirement that there be specific facts connecting the records sought to a foreign agent. And, at the same time, the White House is now pushing for ‘administrative subpoenas,’ which would allow the FBI to issue and sign its own search orders - without prior judicial approval. If this became law, we would go from diminished judicial approval to none at all: this is the administration’s idea of checks and balances.

Questions for debate: us.gif us.gif us.gif

1.)Should the Patriot Act be renewed?

2.)Does the ACLU's criticism of the act have merit? Why or why not?

3.)Is this act constitutional?
Moved to Domestic Policy
1.)Should the Patriot Act be renewed?
No. It was passed in a moment of terrorized passion, without proper deliberation, under political conditions that prevented proper debate and consideration. It was a hasty, ill-considered act and should not have been passed in the first place.

2.)Does the ACLU's criticism of the act have merit? Why or why not?
Yes, the ACLU has some solid points. The fact that this act, after three and a half years, has produced almost nothing in the way of convictions (and much of what was accomplished under it could have been accomplished without it) is itself damning. The restrictions and eliminations on judicial review are inimical to the founding principles of our Republic.

3.)Is this act constitutional?
Some portions of it have already been declared unconstitutional. Other portions are questionable; others are likely constitutional. This question really can only be addressed on a provision-by-provision basis.
1.)Should the Patriot Act be renewed?
While I had little doubt the Patriot Act may have provided *some* information in combating terrorism, the 9/11 commission delivered quite factually that our issue in combating terrorism was not insufficient state power, it was communication amongst our enforcement and intelligence agencies.

I have a rather "modest proposal" for the members of our Congress. I'll support reauthorization of the Patriot Act *if* they can take a quiz (10 questions) focusing on provisions in that act. whistling.gif One of the most disturbing aspects of that legislation being passed in the emotion following 9/11 is that the vast majority (arguably all) of Congress couldn't tell you what in the heck was in that bill (yes, Farenheit 911 is my source, but its never been refuted).

My proposal aside, I'd be willing to consider supporting the Patriot Act if the unconstitional provisions were altered to pass muster or removed. However, I'd rather the existing powers granted government were exercised more effectively and that information shared properly amongst the appropriate agencies instead of worrying about securing more federal power in the area.

2.)Does the ACLU's criticism of the act have merit? Why or why not?
Arguably yes. The bottom line is that at least 3 provisions have been found unconstitutional. For Bush to claim otherwise is denying reality.

3.)Is this act constitutional?
I believe provisions of it aren't, thus rendering the act unconstitutional. Specifically, the provisions prohibiting alleged terrorist organizations from receiving expert advice (vague), and unchecked information requests from ISP's (due process).

I'm reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin (or Richard Jackson, depending on your belief as to its source):

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Just Leave me Alone!
Bumping this back up with the most recent development.
The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee introduced a bill yesterday that would make the USA Patriot Act permanent, but he balked at including some new powers sought by the Bush administration.
The bill proposed by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) largely gives the Justice Department what it has requested in the review of the Patriot Act antiterrorism law, which was enacted weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The proposal includes 16 provisions set to expire at the end of this year unless they are renewed or made permanent by Congress.

Should the Patriot Act be renewed? I think this needs to be done on a provision by provision basis. Here are the parts of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of this year:
Provisions that will expire
· §201. Authority To Intercept Wire, Oral, And Electronic Communications Relating To Terrorism.
· §202. Authority To Intercept Wire, Oral, And Electronic Communications Relating To Computer Fraud And Abuse Offenses.
· §203(b ), (d). Authority To Share Criminal Investigative Information.
· §206. Roving Surveillance Authority Under The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Of 1978.
· §207. Duration Of FISA Surveillance Of Non-United States Persons Who Are Agents Of A Foreign Power.
· §209. Seizure Of Voice-Mail Messages Pursuant To Warrants.
· §212. Emergency Disclosure Of Electronic Communications To Protect Life And Limb.
· §214. Pen Register And Trap And Trace Authority Under FISA.
· §215. Access To Records And Other Items Under FISA.
· §217. Interception Of Computer Trespasser Communications.
· §218. Foreign Intelligence Information. (Lowers standard of evidence for FISA warrants.)
· §220. Nationwide Service Of Search Warrants For Electronic Evidence.
· §223. Civil Liability For Certain Unauthorized Disclosures.
· §224. Sunset. (self-cancelling)
· §225. Immunity For Compliance With Fisa Wiretap.
Full text here.
As far as I can see, I have no problem with them renewing all of these sections except for sections 206, 212, and 215.
QUOTE(Section 206)
Section 105©(2)(B ) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1805©(2)(B )) is amended by inserting `, or in circumstances where the Court finds that the actions of the target of the application may have the effect of thwarting the identification of a specified person, such other persons,' after `specified person'.

This is basically saying we can tap any phone or wire that a terrorist may ever use. The fact that they pick up innocents information is what is scary. It’s too broad and subjective IMO.
QUOTE(Section 212)
EXCEPTIONS FOR DISCLOSURE OF CUSTOMER RECORDS- A provider described in subsection (a) may divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service (not including the contents of communications covered by subsection (a)(1) or (a)(2))--

`(1) as otherwise authorized in section 2703; `(2) with the lawful consent of the customer or subscriber;`(3) as may be necessarily incident to the rendition of the service or to the protection of the rights or property of the provider of that service;`(4) to a governmental entity, if the provider reasonably believes that an emergency involving immediate danger of death or serious physical injury to any person justifies disclosure of the information; or`(5) to any person other than a governmental entity.'.

Your information is not your own. 215 is similar but worse in the sense that it gives the feds the right to access just about anything they want on anyone they want so long as they have any reason to suspect them outside of their speech.

Title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861 et seq.) is amended by striking sections 501 through 503 and inserting the following:
`(a)(1) The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or a designee of the Director (whose rank shall be no lower than Assistant Special Agent in Charge) may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution.
`(d) No person shall disclose to any other person (other than those persons necessary to produce the tangible things under this section) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has sought or obtained tangible things under this section.
`(e) A person who, in good faith, produces tangible things under an order pursuant to this section shall not be liable to any other person for such production. Such production shall not be deemed to constitute a waiver of any privilege in any other proceeding or context.
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