- © Copyright, 2003, From The Wilderness Publications,
www.fromthewilderness.com. All rights reserved. May be copied, distributed
or posted on the Internet for non-profit purposes only.
- (FTW) -- With more than twenty U.S. cities having passed
resolutions openly opposing the multiple civil liberties violations in
the 2001 Patriot Act, and as the state of New Mexico debates legislation
that would encourage police agencies to avoid violations of the First Amendment,
the recent leak of a secret Bush administration bill that would further
erode civil liberties has provoked a bizarre tale of denials and "non
responses" by the administration. Thus far the saga of the Domestic
Security Enhancement Act of 2003 - commonly known as Patriot II - suggests
that the leak of the proposed legislation was possibly a "trial balloon"
or "tester" to gauge both public and congressional reaction to
a bill that, if passed, would grant the federal government drastic new
powers in a continuing erosion of the Bill of Rights.
Patriot II has not been officially introduced in either house of congress
and thus has no official standing. It has, however, been officially transmitted
by the Bush Justice Department to Vice President Cheney (President of the
Senate) and House Speaker Denny Hastert, R-Illinois.
The bill has already been given a clandestine odor and the Bush administration
has violated standard congressional protocols in its handling. In fact,
the administration has been caught in outright lies about the bill's actual
status. In official comments dated February 10, ranking Senate Judiciary
Committee member Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, stated, "For months, and
as recently as just last week, Justice Department officials have denied
to members of the Judiciary Committee that they were drafting another anti-terrorism
package. There still has not been any hint from them about their draft
John Conyers, D-Michigan, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee,
which has jurisdiction over proposed anti-terrorism legislation, in a Feb,
10th letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft -- signed also by Representatives
Robert Scott, D-Virginia, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, wrote:
We write to express my profound disappointment about your Department's
handling of anti-terrorism policy. Recent reports irrefutably indicate
that the Department of Justice has been working on a successor bill to
the "USA Patriot Act" for some time. Notwithstanding the Judiciary
Committee's jurisdiction in this matter and outstanding record of dealing
with this legislation, the Committee reported a bipartisan version of the
Patriot Act by a unanimous vote, according to the Chairman's spokesman
there have been no consultations with the Committee on this bill.
Your Spokesperson, Barbara Comstock, claimed in a February 7, statement
(attached) that the new draft bill was still in "internal deliberations"
within the Department and still being discussed at "staff levels"
and has not been "presented to the White House." This is blatantly
false in several respects, yet the Department of Justice "Control
Sheet" (attached) plainly indicates that the bill was forwarded to
the Speaker of the House and Vice President on January 10
Conyers specifically requested that the Attorney General reply to his letter
no later than February 15, 2003. A Conyers' spokesperson told FTW today
that not only has the Justice Department not replied to Conyers' letter
but that they have "not even acknowledged receiving it."
The Department of Justice did not respond to a call from FTW asking for
a response to Conyers' letter or an explanation as to why they had not
The bill's draft and the fact that it had been officially transmitted to
Cheney and Hastert nearly a month a month before its existence was disclosed
was revealed in major scoop released on Feb. 7, 2003 by Washington, D.C.'s
non-partisan Center for Public Integrity (CPI). FTW has relied extensively
on comprehensive reports by the CPI for past major stories including our
2000 story, The Bush Cheney Drug Empire.
The original CPI story including links to the "Confidential"
draft of the bill and the official letter of transmittal is located at:
In a follow-up story on PBS' Frontline, anchor Bill Moyers interviewed
CPI's Executive Director Chuck Lewis who disclosed that the CPI had obtained
a copy of the bill as a result of a leak from within the Justice Department
by someone who was exposing themselves to great risk in the post-9/11 climate
of secrecy in Washington. The fact that the story was leaked raises the
possibility that the Bush administration was attempting to gauge both public
and congressional reaction prior to introducing the bill for legislative
WHAT'S IN PATRIOT II?
CPI's Lewis was not jesting when he told Moyers that Patriot II was five
or ten times worse than the first Patriot Act.
Its provisions allow for secret arrests of persons in certain terrorist-related
cases until indictments have been handed down and there is no time limitation
for this process. America has never permitted secret arrests for indefinite
time periods. In addition, Patriot II provides that these terrorist arrests
may be under "no bail" conditions and that any federal employee
who discloses the identity of someone who has been secretly detained may
be imprisoned for up to five years.
The bill mandates that government authorities are entitled to have ex parte
(one- on-one, without defense counsel or a public record) and in camera
(private) - meetings with judges without opposing counsel or defendants
even being notified to secure rulings on search warrants, admissibility
of evidence and investigative procedures. In certain cases where naturalized
American citizens are found to be working with foreign governments, or
making donations to foreign based charities later found to be supporting
terrorist causes, the Attorney General will have the right to revoke U.S.
citizenship and extradite those charged to any country in the world, whether
there is an extradition treaty in place or not.
There has been some debate, encouraged by inaccurate and extremely irresponsible
reporting by some "alternative" journalists and radio talk show
hosts indicating that the bill provides the government with the ability
to strip native-born U.S. citizens of their citizenship for seemingly trivial
offenses. This is patently untrue. The actual truth is bad enough.
Section 501 of Patriot II amends section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality
Act (8 U.S.C. 1481) pertaining to the citizenship status of those who have
acquired U.S. citizenship. It states that those who have entered into the
armed forces of a foreign government (when such forces are engaged in hostilities
against the US), or have joined or provided material support "to a
terrorist organization if the organization is engaged in hostilities against
the United States, its people, or its national security interests"
will be deemed to have made a prima facie (apparent on its face) statement
that they intend to relinquish their citizenship.
Lewis and Moyers were correct in their interpretation of this section in
that a naturalized American who makes a donation to an Islamic charity
later alleged to have been giving money to a terrorist organization could
be stripped of their citizenship and deported anywhere without it ever
having been established that he or she even knew how the charity was distributing
The act broadens the scope of activities that qualify for the loose-to-non-existent
guidelines for eavesdropping and surveillance under Patriot I and allows
law enforcement personnel to obtain "national" search warrants
for domestic and foreign terrorism investigations. As discussed in previous
FTW stories, under Patriot I the definition of "domestic terrorism"
is extremely vague and non-specific. Throwing away decades of progress
obtained as a result of litigation in the 1970s and 80s the new bill specifically
overturns dozens of consent decrees prohibiting law enforcement agencies
from infiltrating non-violent religious and civic groups exercising protected
first amendment rights.
Section 126 of the act allows the U.S. government to obtain consumer credit
reports and to impose criminal penalties on credit reporting agencies if
they disclose to individuals that the government has obtained copies of
Section 127 of Patriot II allows the Federal government to supercede all
local statutes governing autopsies in terrorism investigations which means
literally that if a person died at the hands of an illegal federal investigation,
the autopsy results could show a suicide or some other finding favorable
to the government. This would also apply in cases of accidental death due
to fatalities resulting from mass compulsory vaccinations. In such cases,
instead of finding dangerous vaccines as the cause of death the federal
government could instead blame terrorists.
Opening the door for the Total Information Awareness program run by convicted
Iran-Contra felon John Poindexter, section 128 provides for the issuance
of federal administrative subpoenas in cases "involving domestic or
international terrorism" to any company that maintains records on
any individual in the United States. This would apply to everything from
medical records, to credit card and utility bills, to the reading habits
of the targeted individual. This section also provides stiff criminal penalties
of up to five years imprisonment for any employee of a private company
who reveals that the records have been sought.
Once compiled, these records can be shared with any foreign government
the government wishes to share them with. It also allows federal agents
to serve search warrants issued by foreign governments inside this country.
Also in the list of list of noxious provisions, chemical and utility companies
would be absolved under the act from requirements that they publicly disclose
the kinds of dangerous chemicals in use at their facilities or "worst
case scenario" information about what might happen if there were malfunctions
or breakdowns at their facilities. This equates to an environmental "carte
blanche" for polluters.
At the same time, Supreme Court Justices and other federal VIPs are no
longer required to declare as income the cost of federally provided bodyguard
and security services. This amounts to a back door raise in pay of up to
several hundred thousand dollars a year for federal judges and executives
who will be much more likely to remain friendly to the administration.
And in a particularly chilling passage, section 404 of Patriot II would
impose a penalty of up to five years of imprisonment for anyone who used
any form of computer encryption to commit anything defined as domestic
or foreign terrorism. Under the liberal definition of domestic terrorism
contained in Patriot I, a possible interpretation of this section could
be that a reporter who uses PGP or other encryption program to correspond
with a foreign confidential source could be imprisoned for five years -
just for using the software. It also suggests that no commercial entity
which uses encryption to protect its proprietary data would be permitted
to use any encryption program which the government did not already possess
a key to.
WHAT TO DO?
Since the bill has not been introduced, any pre-emptive attempts to influence
members of Congress would have questionable effects. A member's response
would correctly be, "I have no power to do anything until the bill
is introduced." However, the actions of the Attorney General and,
by implication, the President, the Vice President and the Speaker of the
House are unethical and dishonest, if not illegal. It couldn't hurt to
let them know that you are watching for this bill's introduction and how
they will respond when it comes time.
Anyone wishing to make their voices heard on Patriot II should direct their
comments to the Department of Justice, the White House and the Speaker.
Their statements should be bold and demand that these institutions follow
the law and maintain good faith with the American people.
When the bill is introduced, most likely after the commencement of hostilities
in Iraq or another convenient terror attack, the moment - perhaps the last
one possible - when Congress can step up to the plate and do its job the
way it is obliged to, will have presented itself. If it passes as it is
written Patriot II will signal a final breach of contract between the government
and the people.