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"PATRIOT II" FINDING OPPOSITION FROM ALL SIDES

 

By EUNICE MOSCOSO and NORA ACHRATI

 

BC-PATRIOT-ACT2-COX11

For release Sunday, May 11; w/PATRIOT-CITIZENSHIP/PATRIOT BOX; 800&adds

Cox News Service

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General John Ashcroft says it doesn't really exist.

But still, civil rights advocates, immigration attorneys, Internet privacy groups, conservative think tanks and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are gearing up to fight it.

The item in question: "Patriot Act II." At least that's what opponents call it. Ashcroft, however, contends that it is merely a set of ideas bouncing around the Department of Justice and not a formal legislative proposal.

The ideas were outlined in a Justice Dept. document, "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," which was leaked earlier this year to a political watchdog group.

The "Act" would allow the government to obtain telephone records, bank statements, and credit reports with little or no court supervision in terrorism cases and increase its power to conduct secret arrests and collect DNA samples from suspects.

It would also end many court-approved limits on police surveillance of people's religious and political activities and grant the Attorney General the power to strip the citizenship of any American who joins or provides support to a designated terrorist group.

It would go well beyond its predecessor, the USA PATRIOT ACT, a Bush administration plan passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The legislation contained a number of enhancements to government power, including broader discretion to detain foreign suspects and monitor computer activity and phone conversations in criminal investigations.

The Department of Justice contends that the powers granted in the first Patriot Act have been vital to law enforcement and key to preventing terrorist strikes. FBI Director Robert Mueller said recently that 100 terrorist attacks have been thwarted worldwide since Sept. 11.

The Patriot Act has been crucial to improving communication between law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- a key goal of the government after the Sept. 11 attacks, said Barbara Comstock, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

In addition, she said the new powers have helped law enforcement seize millions of dollars that would have been funneled to terrorist groups and helped the FBI monitor computer and cell-phone communication by terrorist groups who often use updated technology.

"It is a misnomer when people think there is more spying or more surveillance of people," she said. On the contrary, what has occurred is "more effective surveillance on identified threats."

But the Patriot Act has been highly controversial and the idea of expanding it has thrown traditional political enemies into an unusual alliance.

The coalition, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), includes religious groups like the American Baptist Churches, conservative groups like the American Conservative Union and the Gun Owners of America, and groups on the left such as People for the American Way. Activist groups representing Arab, Asian and Latin Americans have joined, and so has the NAACP.

Tim Edgar, ACLU's chief lobbyist on the issue, acknowledged he's managing an unlikely coalition. "And yet," he said, "we've found that our alliance has been one of the strongest in this post-Sept. 11 world."

"People have been so floored by some of these (proposals) that they don't want to stay on the sidelines anymore," Edgar said. "They want to be on the record."

Former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a conservative consultant, is also part of the opposition.

"We ought to be concentrating on using existing authorities to build up our and intelligence and law enforcement capabilities rather than compiling data bases on American citizens," he said.

Charles Lewis, executive director for the Center for Public Integrity, the political watchdog group that first got a hold of the Justice Department draft, said such concerns are widespread.

Within a couple of hours after posting the draft, the center's Web page had been linked to about 100 Internet sites representing various groups with different views.

"It struck some kind of nerve," he said.

Some experts defended the administration.

"We shouldn't make to much of this leaked version of the so-called Patriot II," said Michael Scardaville, a homeland security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"The public debate on this has been grossly mischaracterized in many ways," he said. "Hopefully additional oversight and openness from the DOJ can contribute to eliminating many of these mischaracterizations."

But Lewis said the the Justice Department's contention that the draft was not a real legislative proposal is "Orwellian malarkey."

Barr agreed.

"It looked like a proposal. It smelled like a proposal and it quacked like a proposal. Therefore, I think it is a proposal and a very serious one," he said. "Anybody that is lulled into a sense that this is not going to be a real battle is deluding themselves."

(story can end here; optional add follows)

Comstock said that no decisions have been made on the draft provisions or if they will be submitted at all, either as as one piece of legislation or separately.

But opponents say that the unplanned early release of the draft has stifled any attempt to ram it through quickly like the first Patriot Act, which passed Congress overwhelmingly in a matter of weeks.

"That thing would be dead in ten minutes now," Lewis said.

Instead, pieces of the legislation and other efforts to increase government power will likely be introduced separately or quietly tacked on to other bills, opponents said.

One of those is already moving through Congress.

The measure would increase the government's power to obtain secret warrants to go after lone terrorists without proving that they belong to a designated terrorist organization.

Edgar called the measure a "less ambitious version" of a Patriot II provision.

(story can end here; optional add follows)

Opponents of the Patriot Act also cite what they see as an increasing trend towards government secrecy.

Material witness warrants used in terrorism investigations are secret by nature and many immigration hearings have also been closed. In addition, several al-Qaida captives are being held and questioned in secret locations.

But some information has been released.

Last year, the government won approval for 1,228 secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies, which was more than the 934 warrants approved in 2001. The Patriot Act broadened the FBI's ability to obtain these warrants from a secretive federal court which had previously been reserved for cases focused on foreign intelligence.

In addition, the department reports that since Sept. 11, 2001, it has broken up four alleged terrorist cells in Buffalo, Detroit, Seattle and Portland; brought 237 criminal charges in terrorism investigations; conducted 478 deportations linked to the Sept. 11 investigation; issued 18,000 subpoenas and search warrants; and froze $124 million in more than 600 accounts tied to terrorism around the world .

On the Web:

Department of Justice: www.usdoj.gov

American Civil Liberties Union: www.aclu.org

Center for Public Integrity: www.publicintegrity.org

Eunice Moscoso's e-mail address is eunicem(at)coxnews.com

Nora Achrati's e-mail address is nachrati(at)coxnews.com

ENDIT

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service

NYT-05-08-03 1752EDT

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The Great Thing About Attacks on the Constitution

 

Is that is solidifies and galvanizes support for the Constitution, and since everybody's ox is being gored, the support is across political boundaries. Tom Ridge= The guy everybody loves to hate. Repeat after me loudly:

 

"If they can do it to them, they can do it to me."

 

DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS.

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well... I don't often go so far as to endorse G. Gordon Liddy but... at the risk of giving Uncle Doc a heart attack, I'm gonna say... His latest book, 'When I was a Kid this was a Free Country' is remarkably non-partisan, though from an obvious viewpoint... It's basically about the continuous erosion of basic American rights over the last 50 or so years...

 

*ooops, and I forgot to say, it's good!

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mother fuckers made good time two.

 

shit outta just over two hund it only took em fifty to erode most of the rights....needless to say most had not had rights the first one fifty.

 

fuck it though.

 

cops catch me writing graffiti, i tell em and they let me go.

 

figure that one out.

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