September 11, the USA PATRIOT Act, TIPS, and TIA

When New York's World Trade Center and Washington, DC's Pentagon were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, it shocked an often complacent nation. In the ensuing urgent drive to "do something" to protect Americans from further terrorist attacks, the Bush Administration and the Justice Department were able to gain a wide range of legal powers they had never had before, with almost no debate in Congress. (For more information, see the ACLU's "Safe and Free" pages, the EFF's analysis of the USA Patriot Act, and the ACLU report "Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: the Growth of an American Surveillance Society".
Watch the ACLU's television special, Freedom Files: Beyond the PATRIOT Act.

Jan. 28, 2003: President Bush, in his State of the Union address, announced that he will integrate Federal intelligence-gathering into a single umbrella agency, the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, headed by the CIA. This raises concerns for civil libertarians: the CIA, FBI, and Defense Department each investigated and harassed thousands of US citizens -- mostly civil-rights and anti-war activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King -- in the 1960's, and in response Congress put barriers between them and limited the techniques they're allowed to use. The Bush administration evidently feels that these barriers and limitations will impede the investigation of suspected terrorists, and that they need to be eliminated; the ACLU and similar groups feel that once these barriers and limitations are gone, nothing will prevent the use of Federal enforcement powers to investigate and harass ordinary non-violent political dissidents.

Feb. 7, 2003: The Justice Department has drafted a sequel to the USA Patriot Act, the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003", or colloquially "Patriot Act II". This bill will further expand government surveillance capabilities (even for investigations having nothing to do with terrorism), further reduce the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, further reduce the ability and authority of judges to review and approve actions of Federal security personnel, and make it easier to arrest, imprison, and/or deport legal immigrants for any reason whatsoever.

The draft is dated Jan. 9, 2003, although as of the end of January the Justice Department was still denying rumors that a "Patriot Act II" existed at all. The full text of this preliminary draft is available at The Center for Public Integrity. You can also read the ACLU's analysis of the bill.

Official representatives of the Justice Department have repeatedly assured Congress and the news media that their new powers "don't apply to U.S. citizens," "don't change the standard of evidence," "cannot be used without convincing a judge," "are of no concern except to terrorists," or "cannot be used for broad `fishing expeditions'." These statements are in many cases flatly incorrect, and might be called "lies": many of the new powers in USAPA and the proposed Patriot II do apply to U.S. citizens, do change the standard of evidence, require convincing a judge only of the correctness of the application (not that any actual wrongdoing is suspected), do apply to non-terrorist acts such as peaceful political protest, and can be used for broad "fishing expeditions" with no specific suspect. See the ACLU report, "Seeking Truth from Justice".

July 1, 2003: The U.S. Defense department is developing a surveillance system to track, record, and analyze the movement of every vehicle in a city, e.g. to support troops in urban warfare. The system is to be tested on the military base at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and then in a foreign city such as Kabul or Baghdad. DARPA spokespeople says the system couldn't easily be used for domestic law enforcement; privacy advocates disagree. See news story.


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Last modified: Tue Feb 25 09:51:08 EST 2003
Stephen Bloch / sbloch@adelphi.edu
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