With the stomach churning reaction so many people got from the draft release of Patriot II, it should come as no surprise that neo-conservative and security-minded leaders in Washington are sneaking repressive legislation in piecemeal. In one such maneuver, Rep. James Sesenbrenner (R-WI) and Porter Goss (R-FL) introduced House Bill HR 3179 last Fall. The resolution is now in the House Intelligence Committee (only the House would need a committee for intelligence) and is expected to be attached to unrelated bills or possibly the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. A good article on this hoodwink is published on The New Standard news site by Jessica Azulay. The article spells out some of the provisions taken from the Patriot II draft plan that would take effect if the resolution passes attached to other bills. One of the provisions creates concrete penalties for refusing to comply to or even disclose the receipt of National Security Letters (NSL). NSLs demand information from public agencies and business about anyone suspected of, well, anything. The thing is that you don't know if your information is being requested. Previously, you were forced to comply but there were no penalties. Other provisions include: -- Secret use of information from NSLs in immigration proceedings, which defendants will not be able to challenge or even know about. -- A "lone wolf" provision that applies the Patriot Act's surveillance and investigation provisions to persons acting alone. (Now that FBI agent down the street who doesn't like your choice of window signage can legally screw with you.) The Senate just recently passed this as a stand-alone bill. Civil liberties groups, some labor factions, and a host of anti-authoritarians have come out against the resolution and are promoting a grassroots campaign calling for folks to speak out against any further erosion of the bill of rights. These are strange days when the ALCU and the right-wing-nut-UN-and-black-helicopters folks are on the same page. It seems the fog from Foggy Bottom is getting thicker every day. Worry, that's the constitution burning.
A.L. Loy is assistant publisher at In These Times.