The Patriot Act & The Victory Act

This is a long one, so I’ll break it up a little.

Patriot 1 – Nightline

Last week Nightline has a very good segment on the Patriot Act.  Lisa Rein’s Radar has the complete video on this page.  Here are the “closing thoughts” from the program:

The men who drafted our constitution, who framed our civil rights and protected our various freedoms under the law would, I suspect, retch at some of the bone headed, self-serving, misinterpretations of their intentions that they so often use these days to undermine the very freedoms they pretend to safeguard. The miracle of American Law is not that it protects popular speech, or the privacy of the powerful, or the homes of the priviledged, but rather, that the least among us, those with the fewest defenses those suspected of the worst crimes — the most despised in our midst, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

That remains as revolutionary a concept now as it was in the 1780s. It makes protecting the country against terrorism excruciatingly difficult, but we cannot arbitrarily suspend the rights of one category of suspects without endangering all the others.

Patriot 1 – Action

There is a bill (“Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act”, S1552) to help correct some of the provisions of the Patriot Act.  Most of what it does is clarify the language to make it apply to terrorism and require reporting on the usage of certain surveillance activities.  The ACLU has a page where you can easily fax support for the bill to your Senator.

There is also a page to fax support for the “Domestic Surveillance Oversight Act of 2003”, (S436), although that appears to be stuck in committee.  It requires the public accounting of basic information such as the number of Americans subjected to surveillance under FISA and the number of times that FISA information has been used for law enforcement purposes.

Road Trip!

It’s old news now, but Ashcroft is on a twelve city nationwide tour in support of the Patriot Act.  See Ashcroft Patriot Road Show or CNSNEWS coverage.

This inspired candidate Howard Dean to put up a Stop Ashcroft Petition on his DeanForAmerica site.

And none to soon.  This spring, the PROTECT Act was signed into law.  While it is famous for containing the federal version of the “Amber alert,” it also included another important provision relating to federal criminal sentencing.  That provision directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to amend the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines “to ensure that the incidence of downward departures are substantially reduced.”

On July 28, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutors outlining the Department of Justice’s policies with respect to downward departures.  When a judge imposes a departure over the prosecutor’s objections, the memo requires the prosecutor, within 14 days, to report the departure to DOJ.  The result, Sen. Edward Kennedy has argued, will be to establish a “black list” of federal judges who downwardly depart. 

The Protect Act basically forces judges to use harsh sentences, and to be reported to the Justice department if they don’t.

But why bother with a tour?  What does it have to do with the PROTECT Act?  To get support for…

Patriot 2, The Victory Act, Domestic Security Enhancement Act

Critics speculate that as a result of public criticism of the PATRIOT Act, some provisions of PATRIOT II have been introduced separately as the “Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations” or VICTORY Act.  (Ironically, or appropriately, the ‘Y’ is missing.)  The VICTORY Act continues the assault on the federal judiciary that the PROTECT Act and the Ashcroft memo embody.

The “Domestic Security Enhancement Act,” which opponents have dubbed “PATRIOT II,” is designed to further expand federal law enforcement’s powers to limit alleged terrorist suspects’ access to the protections afforded to criminal defendants.  It would allow the Justice Department to declare a person suspected of somehow being involved with international terrorism as a “foreign power,” making the individual subject to the reduced judicial oversight and lower thresholds of proof required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  It would also give federal law enforcers greater wire-tapping authority and would allow state and local authorities greater access to information obtained through FISA surveillance for criminal prosecutions.  The proposal would give the attorney general greater power to issue “administrative subpoenas” without approval from a judge and to revoke the U.S. citizenship of individuals who “provide material support to” or “serve in” terrorist organizations as defined by the Department of Justice. 

“If PATRIOT II passes, a substantial number of political lobbies, including Gun Owners of America, could be declared terrorist organizations by an administration that simply dislikes their methods and goals,” Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), warned.  His group has compiled an online analysis of the potential misuses of the proposed law.

The proposal also includes what it calls a “technical correction” to the PATRIOT Act, which would eliminate some of the sunset provisions in the original law, much of which will expire on Dec. 31, 2005.

That’s a technical correction?

The War On…Everything?

It looks like it the War On Drugs is being escalate to being called terrorism.  I guess they believed their own commercial equating the two.

A draft of the Victory Act (from opens with this paragraph:

To combat narco-terrorism, to dismantle narco-terrorist criminal enterprises, to disrupt narco-terrorist financing and money laundering schemes, to enact national drug sentencing reform, to prevent drug trafficking to children, to deter drug-related violence, to provide law enforcement with the tools needed to win the war against narco-terrorists and major drug traffickers, and for other purposes.

Another excerpt says:

U.S.C. 853(a)), is amended by adding at the end the following: ��In addition to any other money judgment that may be imposed under this section, a person who does not receive any proceeds from the sale, importation, or distribution of a controlled substance because the person is arrested, or the controlled substance is seized, before the sale, importation, or distribution is complete, shall pay a money judgment equal to the amount of money that would have been paid if such sale, importation, or distribution had been completed.��

This looks like carte blanche to just add an arbitrary fine.  It doesn’t say the drugs had to exist.  Just imagine:  “We’ve decided that you were going to sell an ounce of coke, but you couldn’t because we arrested your supplier.  So you’re going to be fined the street value of the coke.  Ha ha ha ha!!!”

Welcome to the police state.

From  “[Ashcroft] seeks to pass laws like the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, a law that would allow the Justice Department to detain anyone indefinitely, without the right to contact an attorney or family members. The DSEA ’03 would make it a criminal act to reveal the identity � or even existence � of such a detainee. Why? Because revealing such information may result in some amount of oversight or criticism of the government’s actions.”

Your Internet browsing records are fair game for the Department of Justice under the VICTORY Act. Your phone too. Your bank records, your credit card records — under the VICTORY Act, they all belong to the Department of Justice too.

To learn more, there is a lot of information on Patriot 2 at the Bill of Rights Defense CommitteeThe Victory Act is also covered on

To do more, send a “Stop the New Patriot Act” Fax from the ACLU.

Wow, that was way too long.

P2P Porn

Yesterday’s New York Times reported that recording industry lobbyists are shocked, shocked to find porn on popular peer-to-peer networks.  Naturally, they think P2P should be heavily regulated as a result.  Somebody should send them a copy of Michael Kinsley’s classic Slate editorial on the most dangerous of all media: paper.

Stolen from Edward Felten’s Freedom to Tinker.

Extreme Bass

According to a BBC News article:  “People who experience a sense of spirituality in church may be reacting to the extreme bass sound produced by some organ pipes.”

A CNN article on the findings of the same experiment says:  “Mysteriously snuffed out candles, weird sensations and shivers down the spine may not be due to the presence of ghosts in haunted houses but to very low frequency sound that is inaudible to humans.”

Presidential Campaign Rhetoric

I realize that nothing has been posted here for a while; I just keep saving links and thinking that I’ll get around to it.  So it’s time for a political yet fun one.  Here’s how Rhetorica describes it:

PCR2004 explains the persuasive tactics of the candidates for President of the United States by offering rhetorical analyses of campaign speeches, and speech situations, focusing on image creation, policy definitions, propaganda, and spin.

Pick your candidate, pick your speech, pick it apart.  To help make it understandable, they have the rhetorical terms (rhetorically speaking?) linked to their definitions.