Is the FBI Lying to Congress about its Abuses of the “PATRIOT” Act?

Techdirt asks, “Is the FBI lying to Congress about its abuses of the PATRIOT Act? and answers in the affirmative.

Actually there is plenty of indication in the public record of abuses in the sense of using the act for criminal rather than purely security-related prosecutions and warrantless wiretapping, something the Bureau initially promised never to do.

Former Senator Russ Feingold appears to have seen internal Bureau memos that make it clear that the abuses are even more serious than that, and obviously are sustained.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The case for gutting our Bill of Rights on security grounds is so weak as to be non-existent. Someone please drive a stake through the heart of this tyrannical and unconstitutional Act.

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6 Responses

  1. In Colombia for the past few years there has been a huge scandal in which the conservative government had its security agency (the DAS in Spanish acronym) exposed by the brave weekly news magazine Semana (given documents by DAS employees) spying on every possible, imaginable person and institution which could be at odds with Alvaro Uribe’s government.

    From human rights workers and lawyers, to reporters, to business executives, to opposition political party leaders, all levels of politicians, even up to and including Colombia’s own Supreme Court.

    This was all done with US-provided electronic surveillance equipment. It lasted through at least 5 of the heads of the DAS appointed directly by the President, our close ally in our ineffective ‘war on drugs’ there (really an anti-insurgency strategy), including his former election campaign director.

    This information was even being passed on the narco-paramilitaries (who incidentally have slaughtered thousands more civilians that the murderous FARC narco-rebels) who are right wing, so that figures such as reporters and human rights and civil rights lawyers could get targeted death threats.

    So, you have an intelligence agency spying on every area of society other than (presumably) the conservative government and its allies. It does so for years and years. It does so through at least 5 different chiefs, all of whom were arrested and charged. It does so with orders coming directly from the offices of President Alvaro Uribe, but whom himself has never been touched. Plausible deniability, it seems clear to me.

    And yet there, crusading periodicals such as the daily El Espectador and the weekly Semana exposing the Colombian Stasi. Note that these aren’t multi-billion dollar institutions like US news media conglomerates, either.

    In addition, those periodicals took seriously the complaints of the major opposition politician when he presented evidence of spying and harassment against him, rather than dismissing him as a crazy leftist wacko.

    When the agency’s actions were exposed, the very same day that the first article came out, the Attorney General (more or less) immediately occupied the DAS offices and prevented the destruction of records while beginning to review and confiscate them themselves.

    The successive department heads were investigated and found to have acted illegally, and were arrested and indicted. Some already convicted.

    International human rights and diplomacy organizations like the OAS and UN agencies and international monitoring non-profits were petitioned by individuals and groups targeted, and they actually responded with demands for investigations.

    The agency was planned to be dissolved and replaced, but it hasn’t happened, and maybe a real re-organization might be sufficient. I don’t know.

    I wonder how much of that quick and courageous and law-abiding response we would see here with similar exposures?

    Or would we be focused on catching and punishing the people who leaked a newspaper the documents indicating illegal spying — presuming the news company receiving the documents actually chose to print them and make the documents available before our government gave permission?

  2. Great piece. I could not agree more. I f I had the power i would drive that stake through the heart of this ACT.

  3. I recall at the time, and in subsequent one move to modify the act, that there was discussion on the issue of actions being taken for national security vs. criminal investigational reasons and the FBI said words to the effect of “no, you don’t need to build the formal safeguards in because you can trust us.” I thought at the time that was nonsense.

  4. Probably Too Late Department:

    “Someone please drive a stake through the heart of this tyrannical and unconstitutional Act.”

    Someone has already driven a stake through the heart of our Supreme Court. My sense is that “state secret” and “national security” do not appear in the text of the USA Constitution. But common law is a wonderful invention which gives judges the right to invent law. The law is (always) what the judges say the law is.

    Hence : Money is Speech and Corporations (who own the money) are Persons — and therefore enjoy free (political) speech.

    Hence: criminal investigations are sometimes acts of war (if the alleged or suspected criminal is described by some low-level low-life — not necessarily even a government law enforcement type — as a “terrorist”) (labeling is wonderful, so powerful!).

  5. It was a relief to see Washington thougth the primary leadership of Oboma get together to pass the continuing resolution.

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