Pennsylvania Democrat

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Cost of the War in Iraq
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War on Drugs: Wasted Resources

Friday, July 30, 2004

Restricted Freedom: The irony of the USA Patriot Act

Our "free" America isn't really free.

Let me clear something up: my opposition to the current version of the Patriot Act is an informed opinion. I actually took the time to read the whole thing. Most of it is actually quite reasonable. The problem is that the parts that are unreasonable have shocking effects on due process. Here are the parts that I find particularly alarming.

To start this off, I'd like to mention that Syria and North Korea were added to trade sanctions under this act. If these two countries are considered threats to the U.S. enough not to fund them, then what are our troops doing in Iraq? I can't figure out the logic behind that one. North Korea still has illegal nukes, after all. You want WMD's? How 'bout ones that can take out entire continents?

What happens when the government thinks you're a terrorist?

"EVIDENCE- In considering a claim filed under this section, a court may admit
evidence that is otherwise inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence, if
the court determines that the evidence is reliable, and that compliance with the
Federal Rules of Evidence may jeopardize the national security interests of the
United States."

So if the government thinks you're a terrorist, they can use
whatever evidence they want against you. People are already falsely imprisoned
and even executed. We don't need any more of this. Perhaps government officials
should just do their jobs and find good evidence. They seem to have a pretty
good handle on "chatter" and "non-specific warnings."

What about this one?

`(1) who is engaged in a trade or business; and
`(2) who, in the course of such trade or business, receives more than $10,000 in coins or currency in 1 transaction (or 2 or more related transactions), shall file a report described in subsection (b) with respect to such transaction (or related
transactions) with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network at such time and in such manner as the Secretary may, by regulation, prescribe.
`(b) FORM AND MANNER OF REPORTS- A report is described in this subsection if such report--
`(1) is in such form as the Secretary may prescribe;
`(2) contains--
`(A) the name and address, and such other identification information as the Secretary may require, of the person from whom the coins or currency was received; `(B) the amount of coins or currency received;
`(C) the date and nature of the transaction; and
`(D) such other information, including the identification of the person filing the report, as the Secretary may prescribe."

This means that if any two people exchange more than $10,000 they are automatically suspicious and must be tracked and identified by the feds. So what happens if terrorists simply decide to make a large number of smaller transactions?

The one thing I do agree with is being ignored. Here's what the government is SUPPOSED to do with suspected terrorists:


`SEC. 236A. (a) DETENTION OF TERRORIST ALIENS- `(1) CUSTODY- The Attorney General shall take into custody any alien who is certified under paragraph (3).
Except as provided in paragraphs (5) and (6), the Attorney General shall maintain custody of such an alien until the alien is removed from the United States. Except as provided in paragraph (6), such custody shall be maintained irrespective of any relief from removal for which the alien may be eligible, or any relief from removal granted the alien, until the Attorney General determines that the alien is no longer an alien who may be certified under paragraph (3). If the alien is finally determined not to be removable, detention pursuant to this subsection shall terminate.
`(3) CERTIFICATION- The Attorney General may certify an alien under this paragraph if the Attorney General has reasonable grounds to believe that the alien--
`(A) is described in section 212(a)(3)(A)(i), 212(a)(3)(A)(iii), 212(a)(3)(B), 237(a)(4)(A)(i), 237(a)(4)(A)(iii), or 237(a)(4)(B); or
`(B) is engaged in any other activity that endangers the national security of the United States.
`(4) NONDELEGATION- The Attorney General may delegate the authority provided under paragraph (3) only to the Deputy Attorney General. The Deputy Attorney General may not delegate such authority.
`(5) COMMENCEMENT OF PROCEEDINGS- The Attorney General shall place an alien detained under paragraph (1) in removal proceedings, or shall charge the alien with a criminal offense, not later than 7 days after the commencement of such
detention. If the requirement of the preceding sentence is not satisfied, the Attorney General shall release the alien.
`(6) LIMITATION ON INDEFINITE DETENTION- An alien detained solely
under paragraph (1) who has not been removed under section 241(a)(1)(A), and
whose removal is unlikely in the reasonably foreseeable future, may be detained
for additional periods of up to six months only if the release of the alien will
threaten the national security of the United States or the safety of the community or any person.
`(7) REVIEW OF CERTIFICATION- The Attorney General shall review the certification made under paragraph (3) every 6 months. If the Attorney General determines, in the Attorney General's discretion, that the certification should be revoked, the alien may be released on such conditions as the Attorney General deems appropriate, unless such release is otherwise prohibited by law. The alien may request each 6 months in writing that the Attorney General reconsider the certification and may submit documents or other evidence in support of that request.

`(1) IN GENERAL- Judicial review of any action or decision relating to this section (including judicial review of the merits of a determination made under subsection (a)(3) or (a)(6)) is available exclusively in habeas corpus proceedings consistent with this subsection. Except as provided in the preceding sentence, no court shall have jurisdiction to review, by habeas corpus petition or otherwise, any such action or decision.
`(A) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including section 2241(a) of title 28, United States Code, habeas corpus proceedings described in
paragraph (1) may be initiated only by an application filed with--
`(i) the Supreme Court;
`(ii) any justice of the Supreme Court;
`(iii) any circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; or
`(iv) any district court otherwise having jurisdiction to entertain it.
`(B) APPLICATION TRANSFER- Section 2241(b) of title 28, United States Code, shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus described in subparagraph(A).
`(3) APPEALS- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including section 2253 of title 28, in habeas corpus proceedings described in paragraph (1) before a circuit
or district judge, the final order shall be subject to review, on appeal, by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. There shall be no right of appeal in such proceedings to any other circuit court of appeals.
(c) REPORTS- Not later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, and every 6 months thereafter, the Attorney General shall submit a report to the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate, with respect to the reporting period, on-- (1) the number of aliens certified under section 236A(a)(3) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by subsection (a); (2) the grounds for such certifications; (3) the nationalities of the aliens so certified; (4) the length of the detention for each alien so certified; and (5) the number of aliens so certified who-- (A) were granted any form of relief from removal; (B) were removed; (C) the Attorney General has determined are no longer aliens who may be so certified; or (D) were released from detention."

Unfortunately, these proceedings have been completely ignored. Instead, detainees are labeled "enemy combatants" (similar to POW's) -- despite having no weapons and cooperating with authorities -- so that they can be imprisoned indefinitely with no right to due process. Three years later (now), these people are told that they can contest the ruling. But how? They have no access to legal counsel!

Don't think this is important? A quote from Attorney General John Ashcroft in Time magazine illustrates his blatant disregard for our legal rights:

"There are no civil liberties that are more important than the right to be uninjured and to be able to live in freedom."

So now civil liberties can be revoked in the name national security? Then comes a part that doesn't even make sense.

In addition to amounts otherwise available to carry out section 481 of
the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2291), there is authorized to be
appropriated to the President not less than $5,000,000 for fiscal year 2002 for
regional antidrug training in the Republic of Turkey by the Drug Enforcement
Administration for police, as well as increased precursor chemical control
efforts in the South and Central Asia region."

The total stupidity of this provision floored me. Why the Drug Enforcement Agency? Shouldn't we have CIA agents taking a look at the WMD's of South Asia? The logic I'm sensing is that it's acceptable for North Korea to have illegal nukes, but we have to watch that they aren't too stoned to use them, making them more dangerous, I guess.

I agree with the parts I didn't mention here. Like the Kerry/Edwards ticket, I support revision of the act, not its repeal. I also believe action must be taken soon. Three years have passed, and the objections of many citizens have been ignored.

Don't mistake me for an armchair warrior. I will run for office when I can, and I will get involved. Besides, I don't even have an armchair.