The Son of Patriot Act Also Rises* Quotes from: http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,63800,00.html?tw=newsletter_topstories_html While activists and politicians work to repeal or change parts of the Patriot Act that they say violate constitutional rights, Patriot Act II legislation -- which caused a stir when it came to light last year -- is rearing its head again in a new bill making its way through Congress. The bill would strengthen laws that let the FBI demand that businesses hand over confidential records about patrons by assigning stiff penalties (up to five years in prison) to anyone who discloses that the FBI made the demand. The bill would also let the FBI compel businesses to cooperate with record requests, and it would expand the government's secret surveillance powers over noncitizens in the United States. "There is no reason for this legislation," said lawyer Chip Pitts, head of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee of Dallas and a former constitutional law professor. "Given the expanse of powers and secrecy already granted in the Patriot Act, and given the unclear security benefits and possible security detriments of that legislation, why do we need a further amendment of the law to grant more powers to the government?" (snip) ... opponents say the bill grants the government more power to investigate people without probable cause and to do so under a cloak of secrecy. As a result, individuals being investigated will have no chance to protest unconstitutional searches and seizures. Under the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II provisions passed in the Intelligence Authorization Act last year, the FBI doesn't need a court order or probable cause to obtain the transaction records for patrons of libraries, Internet service providers, telephone companies, casinos, travel agents, jewelers, car dealers or other businesses. The FBI can simply draft a "national security letter" stating records are needed for a national security investigation, without being specific about the data being sought or the people being investigated. A nondisclosure provision prevents the letter recipient from telling anyone about it, including patrons whose records may be investigated. Under HR 3179, anyone who knowingly violates the secrecy clause could be imprisoned for up to a year, and anyone who violates it with "the intent to obstruct an investigation or judicial proceeding" could be imprisoned up to five years. The bill also lets authorities force individuals and companies to comply with security letters under contempt-of-court threats. (snip) Steve Lilienthal, director of the Center for Privacy and Technology Policy at the conservative Free Congress Foundation, said the gag rule is "a license for abuse." "You have the right to talk to an attorney, but the attorney cannot talk to anyone else," he said. "You're prevented from going to the Department of Justice to communicate, or to the relevant congressional community to tell them when an abuse has taken place. It's almost un-American." (snip) The American Civil Liberties Union recently discovered just how daunting the secrecy provisions can be when it was forced to file a lawsuit in secret that challenged the constitutionality of national security letters under the First Amendment. The organization was able to reveal the existence of the lawsuit only after negotiating with the government about what it could say about the suit. The lawsuit was filed after the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information about how often and in what cases authorities have used national security letters to date, and the organization received six pages of blacked-out documents. ----- So, that's all to protect freedom and democracy, and Amercian values!