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The Continuing Hunt for PATRIOT Act Abuses

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the flame-war-on dept.

United States 1182

Throtex writes "Orin Kerr, Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University writes at The Volokh Conspiracy that the Department of Justice is having trouble finding abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act. This follows from the fact that what the media originally aired as abuses were merely allegations of abuse at the time. Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?"

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One place to look (4, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933488)

How about Guantanamo Bay, at least if there were some way to actually question the people being detained there? Some 545 people from 40 countries are being held there. Nearly all of the detainees are being held without charges and some have been imprisoned there for more than three years.

Re:One place to look (5, Informative)

mirko (198274) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933531)

Guantanamo is outside of the US, so it's not officially under US juridiction. So it's not illegal to detain these people there even if it's indeed a concentration camp for deported war prisoner, except that the Geneva Convention is not respected there.

Re:One place to look (4, Interesting)

nizo (81281) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933596)

But what if American citizens are being detained there? I can't seem to find any report one way or the other, and since apparently no one is allowed to visit all of those detained there (at least that I have heard of) how can we know who or even how many people are detained there?

Re:One place to look (5, Informative)

jallen02 (124384) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933598)

And a pretty good argument can be made that the terrorists we have down there are outside of the Geneva convention as they aren't members of any regular army backed by a real country. They are terrorists.

Article 4. Section 2.

2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

  • (a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

  • (b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

  • (c) That of carrying arms openly;

  • (d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.


Re:One place to look (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933647)

I call bullshit. Guantanamo is property of the United States government (Castro can make whatever claims he wants, but the rest of the world recognizes it as U.S. territory). Therefore, if somebody is born there, they're a U.S. citizen, and futher, eligable for the office of President, it falls under the same rules under the Constitution as Washington D.C. does.

Re: One place to look (3, Insightful)

gidds (56397) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933662)

So Americans are allowed to torture innocent people, provided they don't do it at home. Lovely loophole.

So it's not illegal...

Ah, well that's all right then. Not illegal. Good. Indefensible, certainly. Morally reprehensible, absolutely. Barbaric, without question. But not illegal. Oh good.

I feel so much safer now.

Just out of interest, I wonder what would happen if, say, Japan had imprisoned a bunch of innocent US citizens at an offshore location, held them there for several years, and tortured them, without even charging them, let alone any other due process? I doubt assurances from the Japanese that their detention was perfectly legal would count for much...

Re: One place to look (1)

Luigi30 (656867) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933722)

Japan isn't a world superpower with the ability to disrupt trade worldwide, or shove a nuke up your ass from halfway around the world.

Re:One place to look (4, Informative)

eyegone (644831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933676)

Guantanamo is outside of the US, so it's not officially under US juridiction.

That is certainly the position of the Bush administration. I'm pretty sure, however, that it has been rejected by the courts. (Thus the ruling that the detainees at Gitmo must have some form of access to the U.S. court system to determine whether they really are "enemy combatants.")

Re:One place to look (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933701)

Hmm, aren't the prisoners held in Guitmo in US war prisons and as such on US "soil." Sort of like our embassys in other countries considered on US soil.

I also thought the prisoners there were there as prisoners of war? As such they do not get the US civil liberties, they get treated under the Geneva Convention.

While the attrocities are "unfortunate" (actually I hold zero sympathy for terrorists, I am just going by "popular" belief) I believe they were done by rogue soldiers and this was not a directive of HQ.

Re:One place to look (2, Insightful)

Class Act Dynamo (802223) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933720)

It's an army base, so it is officially US soil. Anyhow, we should not try to excuse any alleged bad acts that take place at the hands of our soldiers on a techinicality.

Re:One place to look (5, Informative)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933548)

Except the detentions at Camp X-Ray, regardless of one's opinion about them, have nothing to do with the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act has to do with domestic anti-terrorism, not the treatment of detainees obtained in military operations.

That being said, there have been some questionable uses of PATRIOT Act provisions for non-terrorism cases that should be investigated. The PATRIOT Act is an anti-terrorism act, and if the Justice Department wishes such powers for conventional cases they should go through the legislative process to get them. The PATRIOT Act should be limited to use only in anti-terrorism prosecutions.

Re:One place to look (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933746)

Unfortunately, a quick look at history will show that it will not ultimately "only be used" for anti-terrorism.

Witness RICO. (in my understanding) It was initially created to help counter-balance the use of high-priced lawyers by Mafiosa during the giant mafia stings of the 80's. It was pitched as THE solution for fighting organized criminals and their money. Now it's being bandied about in ways that was never in its intention. Now, that may be a poor example, but what about forfeiture laws in general?

If you travel with large sums of cash and are pulled over for whatever reason in whatever part of the country, that cash is likely to disappear. All because a "dog" alerted to your money. It doesn't matter if that money is legitimate or not; good luck getting it back. Sure, it sounds great: We taking away the incentive for doing illegal things and we justify it every day "Well, why the hell else would he have $200k in cash in his car?" when the truth is, we're innocent before being proven guilty, and the appeals process is practically nonexistent. If only used against drug dealers, then maybe it's a good practice. (of course, we get into the whole Prohibition debate from there). But this is something that happens every day to people who are innocent (or at least claim to be), and our country was founded on principles exactly opposite of that.

Re:One place to look (5, Insightful)

Kainaw (676073) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933559)

How about Guantanamo Bay

The American Citizens in Guantanamo Bay are having their civil rights abused by the Patriot Act!? I thought the only American Citizens there were military - which have a whole different set of rights as specified by military law - so the Patriot Act doesn't really apply. Unless, you are referring to the news reporters that run down there every now and then to try and get a juicy 'prisoner abuse' story to promote and further their career.

Re:One place to look (0, Flamebait)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933669)

Hell, the people being held there had been kept against their will under US jurisdiction for so long some of them could probably soon become US citizens.

It's disgusting that a so-called "war on terrorism/war for freedom" is being fought by the very country that is ignoring basic human rights and basic international conventions itself. The US government is on record as saying that even if prisoners (let's cut out all this "detainees" crap) held at Camp X-Ray are found not guilty of any crimes that they are brought up on in US military courts (where they have no say in their legal representation) that there is a high likelyhood that they will still won't be let free.

Saddam Hussein pulls this kind of shit and he's the devil himself. The US proudly does it in full view of the world and it's somehow OK? Talk about hypocrisy and double standards.

Re:One place to look (1, Informative)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933678)

I thought the only American Citizens there were military

You are misinformed. Jose Padilla, born in New York, raised in Chicago, is an enemy combatant. Yaser Hamdi, born in Louisiana, is an enemy combatant. Both were being detained in Guantanamo Bay last I heard.

Re:One place to look (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933589)

It's sad that you actually think that Guantanamo Bay has anything to do with the Patriot Act.

What is it like to go through life so clueless and uninformed?

Re:One place to look (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933603)

That's comparing Apples and Roast Beef. The POW/Detention Camp at Gitmo has NOTHING at all to do with Patriot Act.

In the Second World War POWs were held until over 18 month after the war in the US camps, there was a call to hold them through '47-48 to held with the harvests.

Re:One place to look (5, Insightful)

TGK (262438) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933605)

I think that a big part of the problem is that the PATRIOT act allows abuses that we, by definition, will never hear about.

If you can detain someone outside of the country, do so under a warrant that is classified, and deny them access to legal representation, outside contact, and the US court system.... how will anyone ever know?

We're talking about the kind of stuff that used to go on in the Soviet Union (seriously, no "in Soviet Russia jokes").

Sure, right now these laws might be used against the "bad guys" as it were, but administrations change, circumstances change, governements change. Even if you're ok trusting the Bush administration with these kind of powers (and I'm not) would you be ok trusting... say... Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, or Sen. Feingold with those powers?

Re:One place to look (0, Troll)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933727)

in soviet russia outside contact jokes you!

the BOFH for Homeland Security (1)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933640)

They probably be careful about doing any too crazily outrageous as look as they think that somneone effective is trying to look over their shoulders.

One can only imagine what the BOFH for Homeland Security (or the equivalent) would be doing about now. I mean, just imagine....

Before the PATRIOT Act... (4, Informative)

Mad Man (166674) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933672)

One place to look (Score:4, Interesting)
by nizo (81281) * Alter Relationship on Monday March 14, @12:02PM (#11933488 [] ) ...Nearly all of the detainees are being held without charges and some have been imprisoned there for more than three years.

Wen Ho Lee [] , Mazen Al-Najjar [] , and Allah knows who else, happened during the Clinton/Reno era, so they don't count (since we can't blame their cases on Bush, Ashcroft, and the PATRIOT Act).

Palestinian professor to stay in U.S. jail

December 8, 2000
Web posted at: 2:54 AM EST (0754 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A Palestinian university professor in Florida, who has been jailed without charge since 1997 on secret evidence, will remain held in a federal facility, U.S. officials said Thursday....

Re:One place to look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933729)

What this boils down to is that it's not considered abuse if the abuse itself is already legalized.

The Headline is Disingenuous (2, Insightful)

filmmaker (850359) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933494)

1. What about of the one-quarter of all complaints that were outside of OIG's juristiction?

2. What is a rough itemization of the unwarranted complaints? The government's own PDF only gives cartoon-like examples of people who clearly need to adjust their tinfoil hats. This story is highly dubious since the wording, figures, and conclusions sseem to suggest that people who question the PATRIOT act are stupid, crazy or both. A story that would be much more illuminating would be one that investigates the government's report, instead of simply parroting it like a good comarade. But then, where are the names? How would a journalist even go about such a story? And more significantly for the times we live in, how would such a story ever see the light of day in the mass media. It wouldn't, that's how.

It's way past 1984.

Re:The Headline is Disingenuous (-1, Troll)

Voytek (15888) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933646)

I can't believe this tripe was modded up.

1) RTFA, it's 1/4 of those they don't investigate; and they forward them to the appropriate agency. Since their jurisdiction is the patriot act, those outside their jurisdiction are not relevant to discussing patriot act abuses anyway.

2) I suppose that the theory that maybe they're not out to get you is automatically false in your view. A positive story is immediately "parroting"...

"a lot of fuss over nothing" (5, Insightful)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933497)

It does not matter if the government has actually abused citizens via the Patriot Act. The only thing that matters is that it can.

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933524)

Police can abuse their powers too, lets eliminate all police...

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933573)

All the real abuses are classified.

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (1, Insightful)

pudge (3605) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933602)

Therefore, one must conclude you are an anarchist.

The government has many powers with which it can abuse citizens. It sometimes even does abuse those powers. You appear to favor a system whereby the government cannot abuse citizens with its powers, but the only system where such a thing is possible is one in which it does not HAVE those powers. The first power that would have to go is the one most commonly abused: the power to arrest criminal suspects. Which would result in anarchy.

Excuse me for being unconvinced by your "Insightful" (cough) rhetoric.

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (5, Insightful)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933681)

I know you understand that he meant "can and can get away with it." No one is dumb enough to not. Stop pretending to be.

Closing gaping security holes in a law does not mean you hate government. The power to arrest criminal suspects is good. The power to arrest whoever you feel like is bad.

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (1)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933610)

A gun owner 'can' abuse their gun.

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (5, Insightful)

yodaj007 (775974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933661)

Right on. All the gov't needs to do is pass some big law that hurts everybody in some way, then never use it. The fuss dies down, people go on about their lives. Then you start using it. If anyone fussed over it, you just point out that the law has been in place for years with no problems. "For years there has never been an abuse. Why would this invokation of the law be any different?" Then everyone is divided on both sides of the issue while the gov't goes on and continues using the law to its benefit.

Re:"a lot of fuss over nothing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933706)

This is like saying "we don't need the 4th amendment, as long as police promise only to attempt search and siezure against people who deserve it". And anyway, just because there aren't public examples of PATRIOT ACT abuse doesn't mean there isn't abuse by it. You think the government can't make someone disapear until they're done with them, without making a big scene about it?

Why Am I Not Surprised? (4, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933501)

"Department of Justice is having trouble finding abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act"

These assholes covered up the murder of a Federal inmate at the Oklahoma City Transit Center, among numerous other situations.

Re:Why Am I Not Surprised? (4, Funny)

Kick the Donkey (681009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933619)

In other news: Micorsoft announced difficulties finding evidence of a monopoly within the walls of Redmond.

My real concern... (2, Interesting)

clonan (64380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933502)

Bush knew he was on somewhat thin ice with the Patriot act. Therefore he didn't push it too far.

The problem is that now there is legal precidence for abuse later.

We need to get rid of it incase the next president is even worse!

Re:My real concern... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933557)

Condoleeza in 2008!!!!

Re:My real concern... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933628)

yeah, right, like we need a female president. one week out of every month the whole world will get invaded.

Re:My real concern... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933733)

There is someone worse? I thought that to come up with your current retard in chief that you must have searched the entire US looking for the person least fit to be president.

Right On! (0, Troll)

gigem4me (853521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933507)

Exactly, I hear people complaining about the Patriot Act abuses. Looking at library records, etc... But when it comes down to it, how many Joe American's have been trampled on by the Patriot Act versus how many evil bad guys have been stopped. I think no matter what people say, it is truly 99.99% bad guys getting trampled on.

Re:Right On! (1)

TripleChin (829211) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933675)

We will never know thanks to the gag orders.

So what? (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933508)

Personally? I don't care if there was a single abuse of the Patriot Act or not. It should not have been passed in the first place. The simple fact of the matter is that the government should not have passed an act that allows for civil rights violations.

Re:So what? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933618)

At the very least, they should not have passed something that they didn't even read first..

Re:So what? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933649)

If it does really allow for Civil Rights violations than the Supreme Court will deal with it. Until the Supreme Court or Federal Courts say it's violating Civil Rights, its not.

That's the way things work.

Hopefully (5, Insightful)

nate nice (672391) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933510)

"Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?"

Hopefully that is the case but it also shows why it is important to "fuss". You cannot just mindlessly accept things and hope for the best. If you don't agree, and many people do not (although only 1 senator doesn't) then it is important to raise a fuss to let them know you're watching.

What is an abuse? (5, Insightful)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933511)

If a government action that would otherwise be illegal becomes legal under the patriot act, is that an abuse? Or does it have to be blantently obvious and clearly wrong? What about the patriot act being used for non-terrorism related purposes? Isn't that an abuse?

Re:What is an abuse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933740)

If it violates the Constitution or any of its amendments, it's an abuse. Yes, some laws pop up now and then that are clearly in violation of the Bill of Rights, and the Supreme Court does a pretty good job of knocking them down, given the chance.

Mod parent up! (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933743)

When we have British citizens held at Gitmo and tortured and threatened until they sign "confessions" that are easily disproven by the British authorities ... but the US government investigates Gitmo and finds NO EVIDENCE OF ANY VIOLATIONS ...

What WOULD constitute an "abuse" of the PATRIOT Act?

How would YOU know that such an abuse happened? That the government was CORRECTLY investigating it?

We are holding prisoners in Gitmo specifically because it is non-US territory so our government can violate our most basic values regarding due process and justice.

Our government has attempted to redefine "torture" to allow people to "interrogate" prisoners with what would be called "drowning" if al Queda did it to our troops.

It all comes down to definitions. What is an "abuse" and who defines it as such.

</obvious>? (4, Insightful)

Neophytus (642863) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933513)

Of course he won't find them, if he's only relying on publically disclosed information.

(not read TFA)

it's hard to prove anything without evidence (3, Interesting)

capoccia (312092) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933514)

it will be very difficult to prove wrongdoing as long as all the evidence is kept classified. any incriminating evidence can just be hidden.

WHAT?!? "Fuss"?!? (5, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933517)

Whether or not there have been abuses (and whether or not the public at large is aware of them yet - no small matter considering the fine print of the Act), has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are "fussing over nothing." We are discussing the unraveling of hundreds of years of sacred American values and traditions.

Consider the meaning of these traditions. The fact that someone working for our president can point his finger at you and say, "you, come with me," and then you spend years in a cage without a lawyer, due process, a phone call, etc, is bad. The only time it is not bad is in the theoretical and impossible perfect world where we all have perfect, omniscient knowledge and only, ever, use this power for good.

The rules we have to regulate our law enforcement activities are not there to make law enforcement easier or harder. They are there to protect us against ourselves - they inscribe a well-known and ancient protection against human nature, and our ancestors had to bleed into the earth for many, many generations to secure these freedoms, after wearying, inconceivable repitition of abuses, time, after time, after time.

We made our constitution difficult to change to protect our children from cowards. Cowards who run crying, begging for protection from terrorists at any price - even though they kill fewer people than slipping and falling, even though they are selling freedoms that sufficed for us through many, many crises before. I'm sure there are many here who are scared enough of Osama to sell out their civil rights on the chance it will make them a little safer. It's the price we all pay for the general ignorance of history.

The PATRIOT act itself stirs up a lot of confusing debate because it is a beast of many parts; I hope we can stay on topic and remember that we are not objecting to interdepartmental communications and red-tape reductions in law enforcement, but rather the rolling back of safeguards that were established very recently - and in response to abuse of power by American law enforcement so systematic and staggering that even Congress and the President were frightened into enacting them.

Hoover's FBI is not ancient history, it is recent history. And we are Americans - it is shameful to forget our past so conspicuously as to suggest complaints over the PATRIOT act are trifles and fuss. These are matters of principle, of black-letter constitutional law. We do not need to wait for abuses to "fuss." The abuses have already happened, again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again... This is why we had safeguards for PATRIOT to remove in the first place. How many times does it have to happen for us to really get it? How thick is America's collective skull?

Take a deep breath... (2, Interesting)

Fished (574624) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933708)

There, now don't you feel better?

Personally, I think that the PATRIOT act is both problematic and unecessary. However, I do not think that it is the end of American civilization. In fact, the most problematic elements of the act are those which seem to suspend Habeas Corpus, at least under certain circumstances. However, during the civil war (and, arguably, during WWII w.r.t. Japanese internment) Habeas Corpus was suspended outright. Was this a problem? Yes. Was it the end of everything? No.

So, take a deep breath, relax, and rest assured that you will have another chance to unseat the dastardly Republicans in a couple of years. And, if you want PATRIOT repealed, lobby your congressman in the meantime.

As long as you're still free to decry the PATRIOT act, I don't think we have a major problem.

Re:WHAT?!? "Fuss"?!? (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933718)

Whats happening with Patriot Act, is less invasive than what happened during the Civil War, WW1 and WW2.

"Someone working for our president can point his finger at you and say, "you, come with me," and then you spend years in a cage without a lawyer, due process, a phone call, etc, is bad." Well Lincoln did that to lawyers and newspaper editors that didn't go along with the War. Has Ward Churchil been thrown in jail or kicked out of the country yet? Nope, in the 1860s he would have been.

After the Revolution thousands of families were forced out of the Colonies because of thier Loyalist feelings. In the First World War Germans were discriminated against and the speaking of German was all but outlawed.

German Agents found in the US were declared spies, denied Civil Trials and executed.

Re:WHAT?!? "Fuss"?!? (1, Redundant)

kmak (692406) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933736)

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Ben Franklin

Looking in all the wrong places. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933520)

>Department of Justice is having trouble finding abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Have they searched in cuba?

USA PATRIOT act abuses not found? (5, Insightful)

disposable60 (735022) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933521)

This follows from the fact that what the media originally aired as abuses were merely allegations of abuse at the time.

Although the fact that publicly reporting you've been charged under the act is itself a crime doesn't help.

Re:USA PATRIOT act abuses not found? (5, Insightful)

M$ Mole (158889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933687)

Mod parent up!

The Patriot Act prohibits those who have been charged under many of its passages from publicly stating or discussing their case. So, exactly how are formal complaints supposed to be lodged if it's illegal to discuss the issue in the first place?

This is kind of like shutting down your Help Desk phones and then reporting the technical support issues are way down.

Well, duh (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933523)

The fact that nobody can cite abuses is rather obvious, isn't it, given the first two rules of the Patriot Act?

Government agency finds they are doing just fine (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933527)

Perhaps the Department of Justice, like many government agencies, are so biased for themselves, they can't see their own failings. That combined with a total lack of accountability leads to the inefficient operation and complete inability to change seen across the government.

Why worry? (4, Informative)

Deep Fried Geekboy (807607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933538)

Because no abuses are being found. That is a danger sign.

I was an investigative journalist ten years ago. I investigated a psychiatric hospital, where there were continual 'rumours' of patient abuse at the hands of staff. The management told me that there had been no complaints. What it turned out that mean was that there had been 600 complaints, but none of them had been upheld. The investigation consisted of the management asking patients and staff what happened. The staff denied the abuse and their word was taken as truth, because the inmates were mental patients and therefore could not be believed.

After my piece aired, there was a year-long public inquiry into conditions at the hospital and wholescale reform.

Whenever someone tells you 'there is no abuse', worry. If there is scope for abuse, it WILL happen.

Or maybe those who have been abused... (5, Insightful)

mobiux (118006) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933539)

haven't been able to talk to thier lawyer or any outside contact.

So...doing nothing is OK? (1)

Mumpsman (836490) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933541)

If this really has been a lot of fuss over nothing, shouldn't we be upset that the government did such a crapass job explaining it to the public? The fact that the Patriot Act may not be the first step to Big Brother doesn't excuse the botched execution.

It's called "change management". I have to do it at my job, so should my congressman.

complaints? (2, Informative)

scbomber (463069) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933543)

Considering that major provisions involve secrecy and nondisclosure of disclosure, how does the DoJ expect people to complain of abuses? By definition the surveillance targets don't generally know anything has happened.

Re:complaints? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933585)

er, nondisclosure of SURVEILLANCE, not of disclosure.

Can you find 'em? (5, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933549)

You receive a National Security Letter demanding that you turn over information. You consider it an abuse, but you can't argue with them and you can't tell anyone about it (or you're in violation). So it's a big secret, nobody has to know, and they don't have to report it to Congress.

So there could be hundreds of abuses that we'll never know about...all because it's written into the law as a big fat secret.

Redux (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933560)

The PATRIOT provisions requires the Deparment of Justice Office of the Inspector General to collect and respond to complaints, when appropriate, and issue a report on its findings twice a year.

The March 11, 2005 report is here [] .

And from TFA [] :

Consider the stats from the latest report, released on Friday. DOJ received 1,943 complaints about alleged civil liberties abuses. Of these, 1,748 either did not warrant an investigation or were outside DOJ's jurisdiction:

Approximately three-quarters of the 1,748 complaints made allegations that did not warrant an investigation. For example, some of the complaints alleged that government agents were broadcasting signals that interfere with a person's thoughts or dreams or that prison officials had laced the prison food with hallucinogenic drugs. The remaining one-quarter of the 1,748 complaints in this category involved allegations against agencies or entities outside of the DOJ, including other federal agencies, local governments, or private businesses. We referred those complaints to the appropriate entity or advised complainants of the entity with jurisdiction over their allegations.

Of the 195 complaints that did warrant investigation, 170 involved what the report describes as "management issues" rather than civil liberties abuses, such as reports by "inmates [who] complained about the general conditions at federal prisons, such as the poor quality of the food or the lack of hygiene products."

The bottom line is that PATRIOT, while not itself a "law", merely modified existing statutes, mostly to bring them up to date (e.g., dealing with cell phones, wireless devices, email, etc. in the context of "wiretaps") and expand definitions in others. The result is imperfect, like all laws, and should be watched for abuse. But there is nothing inherently evil about it. Interested persons would do well, at a minimum, to at least read the text of the act [] .

Re:Redux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933644)

but it's a violation of federal law to report such abuses or to complain.

report an abuse or complain and you go to pound-me-in-the ass federal prison, or roll over and be a goood dog...

90% roll over, the other 10% are on missing persons lists...

get a clue. we have been doing this cince the 50's. the Feds dissappear anyone they find a threat to their secret proceedings.

Re:Redux (1)

Agarax (864558) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933677)

THANK YOU for providing a link to the text of the law.

I sincirely belive that most of the posters here havent even read the damn law before posting thier opinions of it.

Re:Redux (1)

cmfw (583917) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933697)

I almost fell out of my chair when I read this post. What are well reason answer and a data to make the point. What nevers ceases to amaze me is that post like this on /. are overlooked and the bash the government, man keeping us down comments get modded up.

What, you don't like the patriot act? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933563)

One word: TERRORIST!!!

real abuses (-1, Troll)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933568)

The most severe abuses probably have not been disclosed at all. Anyone who found out about them has promptly been shipped to guantanamo bay with no public notice...

We need to have some form of auditing of the classified record to ensure that conspiracy nuts like me are just delluded and wrong. :-)

Re:real abuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933670)

Why is it that you idiots keep equating the Patriot Act with Guantanamo Bay? Don't you morons know that those are two completely separate things?

Everything is ok! Shhh, now go back to sleep... (4, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933583)

Government investigates itself and doesn't find any problems. News at 11.

I smell a rat (5, Insightful)

Radical Rad (138892) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933586)

Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?

No. Because the fact that there is now a potential for abuse means that someday it will happen even if it hasn't already. The lid on Pandora's box is wedged open and the tyranny that Jefferson and Adams and the rest of the founding fathers fought to protect us from is slowly escaping to menace us once again.

ACLU Approves Of Overwhelming Majority of Patriot (1, Insightful)

Mad Man (166674) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933593) _03_05.shtml#1109530615 []

[Orin Kerr, February 27, 2005 at 1:56pm]

ACLU Approves Of Overwhelming Majority of Patriot Act: One of the odd things about debates over the Patriot Act is that even its harshest informed critics actually only oppose a very small part of the Act; the overwhelming majority of the statute is uncontroversial among the fairly small number of people who understand what's in it. As best I can tell, this has been a well-kept secret for the last 3+ years mostly for tactical reasons: If you want to get the public very worried about a topic to help advance your cause in future legislative debates, you can't very well admit that your objections are actually quite limited.

In light of that, it's good to see that ACLU President Nadine Strossen [] apparently has admitted that the ACLU approves of more that 90% of the Patriot Act. As live-blogged at Ex Parte [] , from a recent address by Nadine Strossen at the annual Federalist Society student symposium: "[ACLU President Nadine Strossen] notes that the ACLU only has a few objections [to the Patriot Act, covering] about 12 of the 160 elements of the Patriot Act." While it's too early to know whether this live-blogged report is exactly accurate, note that the statement echoes the view of ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romer [] in early 2004 that "much of the Patriot Act is neutral legislation for civil liberties," and that only "about a dozen provisions" are objectionable to him. If anyone has a transcript of Strossen's remarks or a video, please send it on to okerr [at]

I feel compelled to point out that the ACLU does not actually defend the constitution, but simply uses (or mis-uses) it whenver it's convenient to advance their agenda. As Nadine Strossen pointed out in the October 1994 issue of Reason [] :

Putting all that aside, I don't want to dwell on constitutional analysis, because our view has never been that civil liberties are necessarily coextensive with constitutional rights. Conversely, I guess the fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn't necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty.

Sorta like Fight Club (5, Funny)

X86Daddy (446356) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933597)

First rule of being abused by the Patriot Act:

You don't talk about being abused by the Patriot Act.

For Informed Discussion... (1)

_Potter_PLNU_ (627430) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933604)

Rather than listening to the tinfoil hats here, there is some real information at that website from people who know what they are talking about.

How can this be true??? (1)

signalgod (233854) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933608)

According to Wiki, the US Patriot Act [] includes computer fraud (aka terrorism). Most of the surveillance portions expires on December 2005 anyway.

In Other News... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933613)

Bill Gates has announced he has been unable to find
any actual bugs in WinXP despite his hunt to find
them. He declares all the complains about WinXP
are mearly a "fuss over nothing." Also, Gates later
declares there are no good reasons to use Linux or
BSD instead of WinXP despite other people thinking otherwise.

Yes, its slashdot. What better place to do some M$ bashing. :)

That's some catch, that catch-22 (5, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933625)

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

> This follows from the fact that what the media originally aired as abuses were merely allegations of abuse at the time. Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?"

The fact that we're able to ask questions and write articles about the PATRIOT Act indicates that the PATRIOT Act is not being abused. If the PATROIT Act really were being abused, we wouldn't know about it -- because the victims (and anyone foolish enough to write about them) would be disappeared.

Likewise, you'll know that PATRIOT is being abused - if and only if you stop finding evidence that it's being abused, because all the evidence will be private. Except for this evidence, which (because it's public) is evidence that it's not being abused.

The logic sounds complicated, but it's really quite simple:

"What right did they have?" said Capt. Yossarian

"Catch-22." said the old woman.

"What?" Yossarian froze in his tracks with fear and alarm and felt his whole body begin to tingle. "What did you say?"

"Catch-22," the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. "Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Capt. Yossarian shouted at her in bewildered, furious protest.

"Didn't they show it to you?" Yossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. "Didn't you even make them read it?"

They don't have to show us Catch-22," the old woman answered. "The law says they don't have to."

"What law says they don't have to?"

"Catch-22." The old woman said.

- From Catch 22, Joseph Heller, 1961

I know of a good one (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933632)

...but unfortunately I'm not allowed to talk about it.

The fact that it exists. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933633)

There should be more fuss over "nothing" because the last person to introduce a law such as this in a so called democratic nation was Hitler, and his wasn't as violating as the PATRIOT Act. Study the past, history repeats itself.
And, uh, if you trust the DOJ to publish PATRIOT Act abuse its time to get off the prozac, buddy.

That's because... (2, Interesting)

Erebus (13033) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933648)

anything that might be considered 'abuse' under other circumstances is prefectly legal under the PATRIOT act. Kinda like the military using amphetamines on active duty - it's a perfectly legal 'use', not an illegal 'abuse'.

Perfectly fine. No problemo (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933656)

The guys in the suits and dark glasses failed to show up and take me aw

Just like the Pentagon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933660)

who investigated themselves and found themselves not-guilty for torture []

the sad thing is all these abuses just increase the hate and distain for USA, make no mistake USA will pay for its crimes one way [] or another []

but the world is safer right ?

Film at 11.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933664)

In our top story tonight, the Justice Department can't find evidence that the Justice Department did anything wrong.

In other news Ken Lay shockingly revealed that he doesn't think Ken Lay mismaneged Enron, and baseball owners who reaped huge profits from the steroids abuse of the players reveal that they had no way of knowing that these abuses took place.

you mean? (1)

AviLazar (741826) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933668)

the media doesn't just report conclusive facts that arrive after proving their case? I mean, what is the liklihood that the media will report information to get ratings. Geez and here I thought that everything the media said was gospel.

Come on folks, we already know that the media will report everything. While I do not mind this and think it is a valuable tool - I also realize that an allegation is an allegation. Sometimes the news goes out of their way and reiterates "this is just an allegation" but most of the time those needed words are quickly glossed the person hears "bla blah blah was accused of committing this crime", but the persons mind registers "blah blah blah committed this crime."

You will never know (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933685)

Part of the patriot act I, is that you are not allowed to talk about the use or the abuse of it. To do so, is major jail time. Instead, any investigations should focus on patriot act II and that it allows for secret laws to be made. Efforts should be made to find out what has happened there. In addition, I would be looking at how campaigns shake out. If information seems to flow one way, all the time.

5 W's (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933689)

Could it be that the corporate media reported only flimsy allegations of Patriot Act abuse, because it was cheaper, and more convenient for the Justice Department to deny? And never investigated more serious abuses, covered up by the Justice Department, because it was cheaper, and the Justice Department is investigating only those reported in the media - not the more serious abuse? Could it be that the Justice Department is investigating only those abuses easily dismissed as mere allegations? Could it be that the corporate media is reporting only the Justice Department press releases, without investigating whether these investigations are serious?

Once the Justice Department is being run by partisan bureaucrats (including Ahscroft and Gonzales) who will create and defend an anticonstitutional Act, authorize torture and rendition and other abuses, what would make them investigate their own abuse? Why would a media corporation that missed the story when it was "news" ever cover it again, when we're supposed to be "over it"?

What a relief! (1)

d52boy (867637) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933690)

Wait: did I read that Our AG, the Godfather of Torture, says everything's OK? I feel so much better now.

Seems like an odd post for /. (1)

dalutong (260603) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933693)

I read the story as this: a university has been studying possible abuses caused by the PATRIOT act but have had trouble finding any. do you slashdot readers have any examples, what with all of your legal experts and dedicated researchers, that GWU researchers just happened to miss? and if you don't, doesn't that mean that there are none and could never be any?

seems like a useless story. if it had just been a blurb about how they are having trouble finding examples, that would have been one thing. but then pretending like total non-experts should now be able to come to final conclusions about it is just ridiculus.

Non-terrorist usage? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933694)

What about the case where some guy was given a longer sentence due to usage of the Patriot Act for prosecution of non-terrorism activities? Seems the act should only be applied to terrorism.

Doesn't matter (5, Interesting)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933695)

It doesn't matter if there have been any abuses or not.

What matters is whether the potential is there for abuse or not.

America has stayed free for 200+ years because her people learned a lesson earlier than most others: you don't wait for the secret police to show up at your door to start demanding your rights. Because by then it's too late.

Take a look at Newsweek (4, Informative)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933700)

Dec. 1, 2003 Newsweek article Show Me the Money: Patriot Act helps the Feds in cases with no tie to terror [] :
Feds are using their new powers in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism--something most members of Congress never anticipated.
Plus, the GWU professor is only looking at reports to the DOJ. Recall for the most maligned provision of the Patriot Act, that of peeking at library records, librarians are sworn to secrecy and so the victims do not currently know of their loss of privacy. (They may find out after the next terrorist attack and they get rounded up into the baseball stadium with concertina wire.)

The PATRIOT Act Is Not Unprecedented (2, Interesting)

WombatControl (74685) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933715)

For all the talk of how the PATRIOT Act is somehow systematically unraveling our freedoms, it's not the only time this sort of thing has been done during a time of war.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus entirely [] , essentially ignoring the right of jury trials and the Bill of Rights. Clearly American democracy did not perish afterwards, and the right was later reinstated at the end of the war. No matter how odious the PATRIOT Act really is, it barely compares to Lincoln's actions.

During the Second World War, President Roosevelt was granted the power to try American citizens as enemy combatants as well. In the landmark case Ex parte Quirin [] Chief Justice Stone wrote:

Citizenship in the United States of an enemy belligerent does not relieve him from the consequences of a belligerency which is unlawful because in violation of the law of war. Citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts are enemy belligerents within the meaning of the Hague Convention and the law of war. It is as an enemy belligerent that petitioner Haupt is charged with entering the United States, and unlawful belligerency is the gravamen of the offense of which he is accused.

It is quite clear that members of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda are enemy belligerents in every sense of the word. They deliberate target the civilian population, do not follow the rules of warfare as laid out in the Geneva Conventions, and are willing to use the most deadly weapons in existence in order to kill as many people as possible without regard for their status as non-combatants.

More recently, library records were instrumental in locating Andrew Cunanan, the man responsible for the murder of Gianni Versace. Yet very few civil libertarians seemed to have an issue with this. If it is acceptable to search library records to find a serial murderer, why not a terrorist. And why a library records so sacrosanct when other private records such as phone conversations and financial records could already be examined by the government under RICO and other laws?

There is something about the furor over the PATRIOT Act that suggests its motivated more by political opinions than an honest belief in civil rights. Certainly those who protest the PATRIOT Act now must recognize the horrendous erosions of civil liberties that occurred in the previous Administration under the guise of the "war on drugs" including no-knock warrants and other practices.

I can find some agreement with those who say that the PATRIOT Act goes to far, and there is nothing wrong or unpatriotic about holding the law to a high standard. However, I would lend far more credence to those who make their arguments in full understanding of the nature and intent of groups like al-Qaeda. We cannot afford to give more civil protections to Tony Soprano than we do to Osama bin Laden, which was the state of US law before September 11. If the PATRIOT Act is too onerous, the critics have the obligation of suggesting how we might better balance the needs to protect the safety of our nation while maintaining civil rights.

My opinion... (1)

lamber45 (658956) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933716)

is that the Patriot Act is probably not being misused... but I'm glad multiple organizations, including an arm of the D.O.J., are investigating all alleged abuses.

In September 2001, I wondered whether the C.I.A., or perhaps some renegade arm of the U.S. Army/Navy/Air Force, had instigated the attacks in order to immediately double their top-secret budget. Naah... no American would ever do something like that, right?

Then again, as far as I know, all the executives at Enron were U.S. citizens, and so were the officers who performed the notorious interrogations at Abu Ghraib. In the 1980s, the U.S. government secretly sold arms all over the world to renegade governments and rebels who were thought to be preventing the spread of Communism. Who knows what really goes on in government departments before the papers are shredded and the tapes erased?

WAIT! (1)

Newer Guy (520108) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933721)

Let me cover my eyes before I look...

Okay. Now I can look for abuses.

Hey! I don't see any abuses ! You all must be wrong...

Can someone turn the lights back on now?

Release of FBI files to foreign governments (1)

cant1cle (719946) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933731)

Wouldn't the release of our FBI files to foreign governments in trade for their terrorist files be considered an significant abrogation of our rights?

Frankly, I didn't even know I had an FBI file until I was pulled out of line by Canadian Customs at the Canadian border and asked dozens of humiliating questions in front of gawd and everyone!


Apple: Linux IBM/Power article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11933739)

OT. I know.

But ... Wtf happened to that Apple/Linux/Power/IBM article?

Did they just yank it out of embarassment or what?

I don't see any problems (2, Funny)

ericbrow (715710) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933745)

After a serious review of my hard drive, I can report to the RIAA that I have NO illegally downloaded music on my hard drive either. Hey, if it works for the justice department....

These aren't the droids you're looking for.... (1)

Newer Guy (520108) | more than 9 years ago | (#11933747)

Move along.....

Move along

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