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United States Government Politics

The Continuing Hunt for PATRIOT Act Abuses 1182

Throtex writes "Orin Kerr, Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University writes at The Volokh Conspiracy that the Department of Justice is having trouble finding abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act. This follows from the fact that what the media originally aired as abuses were merely allegations of abuse at the time. Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?"
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The Continuing Hunt for PATRIOT Act Abuses

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  • One place to look (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:02PM (#11933488) Homepage Journal
    How about Guantanamo Bay, at least if there were some way to actually question the people being detained there? Some 545 people from 40 countries are being held there. Nearly all of the detainees are being held without charges and some have been imprisoned there for more than three years.
    • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Informative)

      by mirko ( 198274 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:05PM (#11933531) Journal
      Guantanamo is outside of the US, so it's not officially under US juridiction. So it's not illegal to detain these people there even if it's indeed a concentration camp for deported war prisoner, except that the Geneva Convention is not respected there.
      • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:09PM (#11933596) Homepage Journal
        But what if American citizens are being detained there? I can't seem to find any report one way or the other, and since apparently no one is allowed to visit all of those detained there (at least that I have heard of) how can we know who or even how many people are detained there?
        • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:50PM (#11934158) Journal

          But what if American citizens are being detained there? I can't seem to find any report one way or the other, and since apparently no one is allowed to visit all of those detained there (at least that I have heard of) how can we know who or even how many people are detained there?

          Gitmo has absolutely nothing to do with the Patriot Act unless there is some provision in it that authorizes the Federal Government to declare people enemy combatants and send them down there. Gitmo is an argument best saved for a discussion about international law or the Geneva conventions.

          If you really want to talk about the Patriot Act, then let me be so bold as to suggest that even if it isn't being abused now it will eventually be abused and probably not even against terrorists. Recall how the RICO statures were intended to be used against organized crime. Nowadays the Feds will threaten RICO prosecutions against just about anybody to force a favorable plea or seek harsher sentences then the normal laws will provide.

          Might I even be so bold as to suggest that I don't really trust the Federal Government and that in most cases the prosecution of terrorism should be left to the State Government(s) of whichever state was targeted using laws already on the books? If we captured the "20th hijacker" from 9/11 why couldn't he be indicted and prosecuted for about 2,800 counts of murder in the first degree and conspiracy under New York State law? Prosecuting terrorists under state law seemed to work just fine for the Washington DC area snipers.

          Why does the Federal Government need to step in and take yet more power away from the states? The role of the Federal Government should be to assist the states -- not bypass them. In any case you know that power is going to be abused in the future.... we've already had cases of the Patriot Act being used in drug cases. Hardly what Congress had in mind when they passed it I'd say.

          Let's have a discussion along these lines and see what others have to say.

          • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Interesting)

            by gregorsamsa11 ( 758287 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @04:10PM (#11935849)
            From what I understand, the Patriot Act consists most of legislation that law enforcement agencies (notably the FBI) have been trying to pass for years. Bascially, they wanted the powers the lost after the excesses of the Vietnam era back again. I don't know much about this personally, but a lawyer who is purportedly an expert on the act told me very little of it was drafted around the time it was introduced. The took all these old, failed bills, slapped them together with some language about terrorism, and rammed it through using some dirty tactics. Not many copies were actually distributed before it was voted on, and it was only distrubuted less than a day before the vote. This is a gigantic legal document, so there was no possibility to know what was in it before the vote. Another lawyer i spoke with, from the ACLU, told me that the day after this passed they received calls from numerous congressman who wanted to know what the hell they'd just voted for. Democracy in action!
      • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Informative)

        by jallen02 ( 124384 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:10PM (#11933598) Homepage Journal
        And a pretty good argument can be made that the terrorists we have down there are outside of the Geneva convention as they aren't members of any regular army backed by a real country. They are terrorists.

        Article 4. Section 2.

        2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

        • (a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

        • (b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

        • (c) That of carrying arms openly;

        • (d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.

        • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:42PM (#11934030) Journal

          And a pretty good argument can be made that the terrorists we have down there are outside of the Geneva convention as they aren't members of any regular army backed by a real country. They are terrorists.

          Excuse me mods, but this isn't flamebait. Unpopular no doubt, but it's hardly flamebait. Can't we leave the politics out of the moderation process for one intelligent conversation?

          • Mod abuse (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rumblin'rabbit ( 711865 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:43PM (#11934776) Journal
            I have increasingly noticed the use of mod points to voice disagreement with a post rather than critiquing the quality of the post. One would think that meta-modding would help, but apparently this is not enough.

            Perhaps the administrators of /. could emphasize the purpose of modding more than they do now.

        • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Informative)

          by Jurph ( 16396 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:08PM (#11934392)
          Article 5. Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

          Where in occupied territory an individual protected person is detained as a spy or saboteur, or as a person under definite suspicion of activity hostile to the security of the Occupying Power, such person shall, in those cases where absolute military security so requires, be regarded as having forfeited rights of communication under the present Convention.


          In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with security of State or Occupying Power as case may be.

          (emphasis mine)

          It appears that the State gets to decide when to give them rights, but is obligated to give them their Geneva Convention rights, regardless of whether they're lawful soliders of a signatory nation.
        • by suitepotato ( 863945 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:43PM (#11934777)
          It's a good thing to point out that a couple centuries ago, these people would have been summarily executed as soon as captured. I'd say the fortune of unattached guerilla fighters who don't comply with the above mentioned article and section has actually improved somewhat.
      • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Informative)

        by eyegone ( 644831 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:16PM (#11933676)

        Guantanamo is outside of the US, so it's not officially under US juridiction.

        That is certainly the position of the Bush administration. I'm pretty sure, however, that it has been rejected by the courts. (Thus the ruling that the detainees at Gitmo must have some form of access to the U.S. court system to determine whether they really are "enemy combatants.")
      • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:22PM (#11933763) Homepage Journal
        Rights to lease the Guantanimo Base facility were granted to the United States in the treaty that ended the Spanish American War (if memory serves). The base is a US military outpost wherein US troops are subject to the Code of Military Justice, a US Law.

        As US Law applies on the base, it is fair and reasonable to assume that the US Constitution, the supreme law of the United States of American, also applies on the base.

        Moreover, there exists no provision in the US Constitution limiting the geographic scope of the document. Further, the Constitution make little or no distinction between US Citizens and other random individuals under the power of the US Government (save for some very specific liberties like voting and holding office).

        Therefore if any actions of the US Government which are in violation of the provisions of the Constitution, even if those actions take place outside the territorial boundaries of the United States (which Guantanimo Bay may or may not be within), reamain Unconstitutional and illegal.

        This is EXACTLY, why the government was ordered by the Supreme Court of the United States to allow detainees in camp X-ray access to lawyers and a proper hearing.

      • by Bun ( 34387 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:26PM (#11933813)
        Guantanamo is outside of the US, so it's not officially under US juridiction.

        Let me get this straight: you're saying a US naval base is out of US jurisdiction?
      • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Informative)

        by Tassach ( 137772 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:34PM (#11933929)
        Guantanamo is outside of the US, so it's not officially under US juridiction. So it's not illegal to detain these people there
        Guantanimo is a United States military base, operated by the United States Government. The Constitution applies to the GOVERNMENT, not the people -- it's a list of what the GOVERNMENT can do and can't do.
        Amendment V

        No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

        It says ANY PERSON. That means anyone, anywhere, at any time. It's not limited to apply only within the US borders nor only to US citizens. It's an injuction prohibiting the US GOVERNMENT from depriving ANY person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
    • Re:One place to look (Score:5, Informative)

      by WombatControl ( 74685 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:06PM (#11933548)

      Except the detentions at Camp X-Ray, regardless of one's opinion about them, have nothing to do with the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act has to do with domestic anti-terrorism, not the treatment of detainees obtained in military operations.

      That being said, there have been some questionable uses of PATRIOT Act provisions for non-terrorism cases that should be investigated. The PATRIOT Act is an anti-terrorism act, and if the Justice Department wishes such powers for conventional cases they should go through the legislative process to get them. The PATRIOT Act should be limited to use only in anti-terrorism prosecutions.

    • by Kainaw ( 676073 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:07PM (#11933559) Homepage Journal
      How about Guantanamo Bay

      The American Citizens in Guantanamo Bay are having their civil rights abused by the Patriot Act!? I thought the only American Citizens there were military - which have a whole different set of rights as specified by military law - so the Patriot Act doesn't really apply. Unless, you are referring to the news reporters that run down there every now and then to try and get a juicy 'prisoner abuse' story to promote and further their career.
      • by Ubergrendle ( 531719 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:22PM (#11933753) Journal
        Although I agree with your argument that the Patriot Act is not relevant in this case, I think the spin you put on news reporters looking to find a juicy story disengenuous.

        These prisoners are either prisoners of war (hence subject to Hague and Geneva conventions) or prisoners of domestic terrorism (hence subject to US civil rights and the Patiot Act). Inventing a new category of classification is typically the behaviour of 3rd world despots and dictators, not of a nation proclaming itself to be the bastion of human rights, freedom, and democracy.

        Maybe the prisoners are being treated well...maybe not, but the story itself is worthy of merit.

        PS Please note that I suspect many of the prisoners are guilty of numerous crimes, but are deserving of resolution of their fates.
    • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:11PM (#11933605) Homepage Journal
      I think that a big part of the problem is that the PATRIOT act allows abuses that we, by definition, will never hear about.

      If you can detain someone outside of the country, do so under a warrant that is classified, and deny them access to legal representation, outside contact, and the US court system.... how will anyone ever know?

      We're talking about the kind of stuff that used to go on in the Soviet Union (seriously, no "in Soviet Russia jokes").

      Sure, right now these laws might be used against the "bad guys" as it were, but administrations change, circumstances change, governements change. Even if you're ok trusting the Bush administration with these kind of powers (and I'm not) would you be ok trusting... say... Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, or Sen. Feingold with those powers?

    • by Mad Man ( 166674 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:15PM (#11933672)

      One place to look (Score:4, Interesting)
      by nizo (81281) * Alter Relationship on Monday March 14, @12:02PM (#11933488 []) ...Nearly all of the detainees are being held without charges and some have been imprisoned there for more than three years.

      Wen Ho Lee [], Mazen Al-Najjar [], and Allah knows who else, happened during the Clinton/Reno era, so they don't count (since we can't blame their cases on Bush, Ashcroft, and the PATRIOT Act).

      Palestinian professor to stay in U.S. jail

      December 8, 2000
      Web posted at: 2:54 AM EST (0754 GMT)

      WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A Palestinian university professor in Florida, who has been jailed without charge since 1997 on secret evidence, will remain held in a federal facility, U.S. officials said Thursday....
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:02PM (#11933497) Homepage
    It does not matter if the government has actually abused citizens via the Patriot Act. The only thing that matters is that it can.
    • by yodaj007 ( 775974 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:15PM (#11933661)
      Right on. All the gov't needs to do is pass some big law that hurts everybody in some way, then never use it. The fuss dies down, people go on about their lives. Then you start using it. If anyone fussed over it, you just point out that the law has been in place for years with no problems. "For years there has never been an abuse. Why would this invokation of the law be any different?" Then everyone is divided on both sides of the issue while the gov't goes on and continues using the law to its benefit.
    • by homer_ca ( 144738 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:26PM (#11933823)
      Exactly, the issue isn't that these powers are already being abused by the feds. The issue is that they've reserved the right to use these powers. Think of it as filling up your plate at the all-you-can-eat buffet only it's a powergrab instead of food. The Justice Dept. asked for and received their wishlist of most every police power they wanted. It doesn't matter if they had immediate plans to use them all.
  • by Master of Transhuman ( 597628 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:03PM (#11933501) Homepage
    "Department of Justice is having trouble finding abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act"

    These assholes covered up the murder of a Federal inmate at the Oklahoma City Transit Center, among numerous other situations.

  • So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:03PM (#11933508)
    Personally? I don't care if there was a single abuse of the Patriot Act or not. It should not have been passed in the first place. The simple fact of the matter is that the government should not have passed an act that allows for civil rights violations.
    • Re:So what? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Phisbut ( 761268 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:25PM (#11934601)
      Personally? I don't care if there was a single abuse of the Patriot Act or not. It should not have been passed in the first place.

      From an outsider point of view, I must say I find this whole discussion about the USAPATRIOT ACT (and someday, people will understand that it's never been called the PATRIOT act, it's the USAPATRIOT ACT [], because it means Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, but you all know that right? I mean... you wouldn't dare argue against something if you don't know what it means, right?)

      On the night of the 2004 election, when I heard that you re-elected George W. Bush to be your leader, after four years of what he had done, I thought to myself "The american citizens deserve everything that happens to them."

      The 2000 election can be excused, because you didn't know the guy and he made all sorts of crazy promises to get your vote. In 2004 though, you knew who you were voting for, and still, you wanted more of it.

      In the 2000-2004 period, American people were telling me "You're not anti-american, you're anti-Bush, we hate him too". Now that you've given him four more years, no one can say that anti-Bush and anti-american aren't the same.

      And don't go telling me that the Americans also hate Bush as much as the rest of the world. Don't tell me that the Americans didn't elect Bush and that he stole the election. I mean, he might have stolen a state, but he got 62 million votes! The majority of Americans elected Bush, therefore the majority of Americans agree to his politics, and the majority of Americans agree to the USAPATRIOT ACT.

      Quit your whining, you voted for it in a democratic way.

      Now go ahead and mod me as troll, but keep in mind that it won't change the facts.

  • Hopefully (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:03PM (#11933510) Journal
    "Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?"

    Hopefully that is the case but it also shows why it is important to "fuss". You cannot just mindlessly accept things and hope for the best. If you don't agree, and many people do not (although only 1 senator doesn't) then it is important to raise a fuss to let them know you're watching.
  • What is an abuse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:04PM (#11933511)
    If a government action that would otherwise be illegal becomes legal under the patriot act, is that an abuse? Or does it have to be blantently obvious and clearly wrong? What about the patriot act being used for non-terrorism related purposes? Isn't that an abuse?
    • by gmcraff ( 61718 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ffarcmg.> on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:26PM (#11934604)
      What do you do when the government breaks its own laws?

      The US Constitution specifies some things that the federal government shall do and specifies particular procedures for doing those. Much of the rest of the Constitution is a list of things the federal government cannot do.

      This stands to reason. If there is no limit to what the federal government can do, or no limit to what can be accomplished with a majority vote, why bother to have a constitution? Without the long list of limits, you could have written it on a 18th century Post-It note: "We the people of the United States of America empower the government to do whatever a majority of our elected representatives vote for and the elected president signs. The supreme judiciary shall verify that whatever is done is done according the letter of the laws we pass." This, of course, is a recipe for an elected tyrany.

      So, no, it is not possible for something under the Patriot act, or any other law, to make legal a government activity that would otherwise be forbidden by the Constitution. If any offending part of the Patriot act is used to bring someone to court, it will immediately be struck down.

      This does not, however, prevent Patriot act powers to be used to pursue someone, then find other offenses under other laws (tax evasion, for example, Mr Capone?) to charge them with, thus shielding the Patriot act powers from court scrutiny. Remember, you have to have standing in order to challenge a law, i.e. you personally must be charged or restrained under the law in order to challenge it.

      I think that Congress should review the prosecution history of the Patriot Act powers. If someone has not been successfully prosecuted under a particular section, or the agencies involved cannot positively indicate when they will begin court proceedings under that section of law, then obviously, that power is not valuable for the purpose it was passed, and should be repealed. You don't leave matches in the hands of babies, firearms in the hands of violent felons, sportscar keys in the hands of teenagers, you shouldn't leave unneeded powers in the hands of government.

  • </obvious>? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neophytus ( 642863 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:04PM (#11933513)
    Of course he won't find them, if he's only relying on publically disclosed information.

    (not read TFA)
  • by capoccia ( 312092 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:04PM (#11933514) Journal
    it will be very difficult to prove wrongdoing as long as all the evidence is kept classified. any incriminating evidence can just be hidden.
  • WHAT?!? "Fuss"?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concern ( 819622 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:04PM (#11933517) Journal
    Whether or not there have been abuses (and whether or not the public at large is aware of them yet - no small matter considering the fine print of the Act), has absolutely nothing to do with whether we are "fussing over nothing." We are discussing the unraveling of hundreds of years of sacred American values and traditions.

    Consider the meaning of these traditions. The fact that someone working for our president can point his finger at you and say, "you, come with me," and then you spend years in a cage without a lawyer, due process, a phone call, etc, is bad. The only time it is not bad is in the theoretical and impossible perfect world where we all have perfect, omniscient knowledge and only, ever, use this power for good.

    The rules we have to regulate our law enforcement activities are not there to make law enforcement easier or harder. They are there to protect us against ourselves - they inscribe a well-known and ancient protection against human nature, and our ancestors had to bleed into the earth for many, many generations to secure these freedoms, after wearying, inconceivable repitition of abuses, time, after time, after time.

    We made our constitution difficult to change to protect our children from cowards. Cowards who run crying, begging for protection from terrorists at any price - even though they kill fewer people than slipping and falling, even though they are selling freedoms that sufficed for us through many, many crises before. I'm sure there are many here who are scared enough of Osama to sell out their civil rights on the chance it will make them a little safer. It's the price we all pay for the general ignorance of history.

    The PATRIOT act itself stirs up a lot of confusing debate because it is a beast of many parts; I hope we can stay on topic and remember that we are not objecting to interdepartmental communications and red-tape reductions in law enforcement, but rather the rolling back of safeguards that were established very recently - and in response to abuse of power by American law enforcement so systematic and staggering that even Congress and the President were frightened into enacting them.

    Hoover's FBI is not ancient history, it is recent history. And we are Americans - it is shameful to forget our past so conspicuously as to suggest complaints over the PATRIOT act are trifles and fuss. These are matters of principle, of black-letter constitutional law. We do not need to wait for abuses to "fuss." The abuses have already happened, again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again... This is why we had safeguards for PATRIOT to remove in the first place. How many times does it have to happen for us to really get it? How thick is America's collective skull?
  • by disposable60 ( 735022 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:04PM (#11933521) Journal
    This follows from the fact that what the media originally aired as abuses were merely allegations of abuse at the time.

    Although the fact that publicly reporting you've been charged under the act is itself a crime doesn't help.
    • by M$ Mole ( 158889 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:17PM (#11933687)
      Mod parent up!

      The Patriot Act prohibits those who have been charged under many of its passages from publicly stating or discussing their case. So, exactly how are formal complaints supposed to be lodged if it's illegal to discuss the issue in the first place?

      This is kind of like shutting down your Help Desk phones and then reporting the technical support issues are way down.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:04PM (#11933527)
    Perhaps the Department of Justice, like many government agencies, are so biased for themselves, they can't see their own failings. That combined with a total lack of accountability leads to the inefficient operation and complete inability to change seen across the government.
  • Why worry? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Deep Fried Geekboy ( 807607 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:05PM (#11933538)
    Because no abuses are being found. That is a danger sign.

    I was an investigative journalist ten years ago. I investigated a psychiatric hospital, where there were continual 'rumours' of patient abuse at the hands of staff. The management told me that there had been no complaints. What it turned out that mean was that there had been 600 complaints, but none of them had been upheld. The investigation consisted of the management asking patients and staff what happened. The staff denied the abuse and their word was taken as truth, because the inmates were mental patients and therefore could not be believed.

    After my piece aired, there was a year-long public inquiry into conditions at the hospital and wholescale reform.

    Whenever someone tells you 'there is no abuse', worry. If there is scope for abuse, it WILL happen.
    • Re:Why worry? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poot_rootbeer ( 188613 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:21PM (#11934555)
      Because no abuses are being found. That is a danger sign.


      This is like the FBI's report last week that it had no evidence of al Qaeda sleeper cells operating in the United States currently. Only a fool would believe that this means we have defeated terrorism on our own soil. Much more likely is the possibility that terrorists continue to plot against us in our midst, but the FBI is clueless about who and where they are.

      If something sounds to good to be true...
  • by mobiux ( 118006 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:05PM (#11933539)
    haven't been able to talk to thier lawyer or any outside contact.
  • Can you find 'em? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:06PM (#11933549) Homepage Journal
    You receive a National Security Letter demanding that you turn over information. You consider it an abuse, but you can't argue with them and you can't tell anyone about it (or you're in violation). So it's a big secret, nobody has to know, and they don't have to report it to Congress.

    So there could be hundreds of abuses that we'll never know about...all because it's written into the law as a big fat secret.
  • Redux (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:07PM (#11933560)
    The PATRIOT provisions requires the Deparment of Justice Office of the Inspector General to collect and respond to complaints, when appropriate, and issue a report on its findings twice a year.

    The March 11, 2005 report is here [].

    And from TFA []:

    Consider the stats from the latest report, released on Friday. DOJ received 1,943 complaints about alleged civil liberties abuses. Of these, 1,748 either did not warrant an investigation or were outside DOJ's jurisdiction:

    Approximately three-quarters of the 1,748 complaints made allegations that did not warrant an investigation. For example, some of the complaints alleged that government agents were broadcasting signals that interfere with a person's thoughts or dreams or that prison officials had laced the prison food with hallucinogenic drugs. The remaining one-quarter of the 1,748 complaints in this category involved allegations against agencies or entities outside of the DOJ, including other federal agencies, local governments, or private businesses. We referred those complaints to the appropriate entity or advised complainants of the entity with jurisdiction over their allegations.

    Of the 195 complaints that did warrant investigation, 170 involved what the report describes as "management issues" rather than civil liberties abuses, such as reports by "inmates [who] complained about the general conditions at federal prisons, such as the poor quality of the food or the lack of hygiene products."

    The bottom line is that PATRIOT, while not itself a "law", merely modified existing statutes, mostly to bring them up to date (e.g., dealing with cell phones, wireless devices, email, etc. in the context of "wiretaps") and expand definitions in others. The result is imperfect, like all laws, and should be watched for abuse. But there is nothing inherently evil about it. Interested persons would do well, at a minimum, to at least read the text of the act [].
  • by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:08PM (#11933583) Journal
    Government investigates itself and doesn't find any problems. News at 11.
  • I smell a rat (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Radical Rad ( 138892 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:08PM (#11933586) Homepage
    Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?

    No. Because the fact that there is now a potential for abuse means that someday it will happen even if it hasn't already. The lid on Pandora's box is wedged open and the tyranny that Jefferson and Adams and the rest of the founding fathers fought to protect us from is slowly escaping to menace us once again.

  • by X86Daddy ( 446356 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:09PM (#11933597) Journal
    First rule of being abused by the Patriot Act:

    You don't talk about being abused by the Patriot Act.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:12PM (#11933625)
    "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.

    "It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.

    > This follows from the fact that what the media originally aired as abuses were merely allegations of abuse at the time. Could it be that there has just been a lot of fuss over nothing?"

    The fact that we're able to ask questions and write articles about the PATRIOT Act indicates that the PATRIOT Act is not being abused. If the PATROIT Act really were being abused, we wouldn't know about it -- because the victims (and anyone foolish enough to write about them) would be disappeared.

    Likewise, you'll know that PATRIOT is being abused - if and only if you stop finding evidence that it's being abused, because all the evidence will be private. Except for this evidence, which (because it's public) is evidence that it's not being abused.

    The logic sounds complicated, but it's really quite simple:

    "What right did they have?" said Capt. Yossarian

    "Catch-22." said the old woman.

    "What?" Yossarian froze in his tracks with fear and alarm and felt his whole body begin to tingle. "What did you say?"

    "Catch-22," the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. "Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."

    "What the hell are you talking about?" Capt. Yossarian shouted at her in bewildered, furious protest.

    "Didn't they show it to you?" Yossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. "Didn't you even make them read it?"

    They don't have to show us Catch-22," the old woman answered. "The law says they don't have to."

    "What law says they don't have to?"

    "Catch-22." The old woman said.

    - From Catch 22, Joseph Heller, 1961

  • 5 W's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:17PM (#11933689) Homepage Journal
    Could it be that the corporate media reported only flimsy allegations of Patriot Act abuse, because it was cheaper, and more convenient for the Justice Department to deny? And never investigated more serious abuses, covered up by the Justice Department, because it was cheaper, and the Justice Department is investigating only those reported in the media - not the more serious abuse? Could it be that the Justice Department is investigating only those abuses easily dismissed as mere allegations? Could it be that the corporate media is reporting only the Justice Department press releases, without investigating whether these investigations are serious?

    Once the Justice Department is being run by partisan bureaucrats (including Ahscroft and Gonzales) who will create and defend an anticonstitutional Act, authorize torture and rendition and other abuses, what would make them investigate their own abuse? Why would a media corporation that missed the story when it was "news" ever cover it again, when we're supposed to be "over it"?
  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jalefkowit ( 101585 ) <.moc.ztiwokfelnosaj. .ta. .nosaj.> on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:17PM (#11933695) Homepage

    It doesn't matter if there have been any abuses or not.

    What matters is whether the potential is there for abuse or not.

    America has stayed free for 200+ years because her people learned a lesson earlier than most others: you don't wait for the secret police to show up at your door to start demanding your rights. Because by then it's too late.

  • by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <> on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:18PM (#11933700) Homepage
    Dec. 1, 2003 Newsweek article Show Me the Money: Patriot Act helps the Feds in cases with no tie to terror []:
    Feds are using their new powers in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism--something most members of Congress never anticipated.
    Plus, the GWU professor is only looking at reports to the DOJ. Recall for the most maligned provision of the Patriot Act, that of peeking at library records, librarians are sworn to secrecy and so the victims do not currently know of their loss of privacy. (They may find out after the next terrorist attack and they get rounded up into the baseball stadium with concertina wire.)
  • by illumin8 ( 148082 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:26PM (#11933824) Journal
    What about all of the abuses that are taking place in the name of the Patriot act? I'm specifically talking about the DOJ taking the Patriot act on a road show in 2003 and giving state and local law enforcement lessons on how to apply the Patriot act to local drug offenders. I couldn't find a link to an article talking about this, but I did find this that was similar: []

    From the article:

    In the Spring of 2003, Ashcroft's PROTECT Act was signed into law limiting judges' discretion in sentencing criminal offenders below the Justice Department's sentencing guidelines. While each individual case carries with it countless unique circumstances that a judge uses to form a fair and appropriate sentence, John Ashcroft acted bravely to prohibit judges from considering the individuality of cases for fear of being black-listed by the Justice Department.

    This caused uproar among judges across the nation including conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Members of Congress inspired by Ashcroft's success are proposing the VICTORY Act to employ tactics similar to the Patriot Act on suspected drug offenders.

    The Bill of Rights Amendments specifically affected by the Patriot Act and other Bush Administration efforts are the following:

    The First Amendment: The Patriot Act allows the search of libraries' and religious organizations' records without cause. This might infringe upon the First Amendment's declaration that the government may not abridge freedom of speech nor prohibit the "free exercise" of religion.

    The Fourth Amendment: The Patriot Act allows searches and seizures of U.S. citizen's property without probable cause and without a specific warrant. This is expressly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment.

    The Fifth Amendment: The Bush Administration claims it may designate Americans as "enemy combatants" and detain them without conviction in court. This is in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment stating that persons may not be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." The Supreme Court has regularly upheld the "due process" requirement even in national security crises.

    The Sixth Amendment: With the claim to designate Americans "enemy combatants", the Bush Administration also states that it may imprison persons indefinitely without trial, without access to an attorney, and without any means to challenge their detention. The entire Sixth Amendment is essentially shredded in this case.

    [End of quoted article]

    I don't think that's a lot of fuss about nothing. I can think of several abuses already, including Jose Padilla, who has been held for years now and has never been charged with anything. He's a goddamn US citizen for chrissakes. If you don't think that's scary that the Feds can come lock you up in a military brig indefinitely without charging you with any crime, then you need to pull your head out of the sand and take a look at what's going on around you.

  • by I'm Spartacus! ( 238085 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:32PM (#11933906)
    Defenders of the USA Patriot Act love to defend it by asking its critics how the Patriot Act has personally affected them. Well, I love to turn this argument against them by asking how terrorism has personally affected them, because for the vast majority of the public, terrorism has not affected their lives in any way. The government's response to terrorism, OTOH, has made life much more difficult though for law-abiding citizens.

    The reality is that the 9/11 attacks resulted in very few people being killed compared to the number of people that die in, say, auto accidents. The potential for abuse by government officials is simply too great, and even if no abuses have yet been found, the track record of the government is pretty poor in this regard.
  • by mojoNYC ( 595906 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:38PM (#11933976) Homepage
    the question should be 'show us the successes of the PATRIOT Act!'

    there have been exactly *zero* successful prosecutions of terrorists in the USA under this act--so, was it really worth it, or even necessary to pass this bill? what *good* has it done? this is just a classic example of 'lowering expectations'...

    and of course, the Bush disinformation machine continues cranking at high speed--even the network news is delivered prepacked and 'on message': Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged TV News []

    so forgive me if i don't breathe a sigh of relief about this 'news'...

  • by hitchhacker ( 122525 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @01:47PM (#11934096) Homepage

    The problem isn't the abuse of power, it's the power to abuse.

  • Its NEVER a fuss about nothing when it comes to my freedoms, even if it "seems" harmless! Freedom isn't something to be taken and given at will, depending on the threat of the week. Even if this hastn't been abused yet, it will be, mark my words. If you want to sacrifice a little liberty here and there for a supposed sense of safety, I'm sure Aus or England would love to have you.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:08PM (#11934383) Homepage
    • "National Security Letters" - the FBI sends these to ISPs, demanding access to account data or e-mail. There's no judicial oversight; the FBI does this all by themselves. The ISP can't talk about it. One ISP is sueing the Justice Department, and until recently, they were under a gag order so strong they couldn't say they were in litigation. Since there's a threat of a five year prison sentence for disclosing that you received a National Security Letter, these tend not to get publicity. But hundreds of them have been sent.
    • The "no fly list" mess. On at least two occasions, the "no fly list" has been used to keep opponents of Adminstration policy from travelling. The "no fly list" is a secret, too. And there's no way to get off it.
    • "Guilt by association". Vague involvement with some group vaguely associated with terrorism can be punished as a terrorist act. This is getting a few terrorist wannabees, like the Virgina Jihad [], a bunch of guys into paintball and Islamic rhetoric.
    • Jose Padilla. Padilla is apparently a small-time Chicago crook [] who hooked up with some al-Queda people as if they were a gang. He's being held without trial, only because Ashcroft made a big deal about him building a "dirty bomb". He never accomplished enough that he could be convicted of much, which is probably why he hasn't been charged.

    The Patriot Act is overkill for the losers the Administration is catching with it.

  • hebeas corpus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by prgrmr ( 568806 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:13PM (#11934438) Journal
    The Act should be challenged from a Constitutional standpoint with regard to the suspension of hebeas corpus [].

    Lincoln explicitly suspended hebeas corpus during the Civil War; to the best of my recollection, Bush has done no such thing and the PATRIOT ACT does not explicitly do so either. Whether or not it implicitly does so, however, is another question.
  • by NetCynicism ( 792366 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @02:14PM (#11934449)
    Forget the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act is virtually harmless; even the ACLU admits that they approve of almost all of it. There are a handful of questionable provisions, dealing mostly with library records and informing you of a warrant AFTER your house has been searched (law enforcement still has to get the warrant BEFORE the house is searched, they just don't have to inform you). The former I don't like; the latter, frankly, I don't see a problem with.

    There is nothing in the Patriot Act about Guantanamo Bay. There is nothing about torture, or deporting people to countries where it is practiced. Nothing about depriving anyone of the right to counsel. Nothing about secret trials. Nothing about the way people who aren't subject to the Geneva Conventions are treated.

    Do these things happen, and should we be concerned about them? Absolutely. Do they have anything to do with the PATRIOT Act? Nothing whatsoever. Do people who complain about the PATRIOT Act being responsible for these things spread FUD and cloud the real issues? Yes. Is that a real problem? I think so.

  • A moderate list: (Score:4, Informative)

    by gg3po ( 724025 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @03:10PM (#11935116)

    Please note that the identical AC post in this story was me, but I accidentally posted it as AC the first time.

    Here's a basic list of just a handful of abuses I came up:

    And finally, maybe there haven't been as many abuses as there will be once all 2nd legal track the preparations are in place [].

  • by lostwanderer147 ( 829316 ) on Monday March 14, 2005 @03:26PM (#11935311) Journal
    The reason that the Department of Justice has not found any abuses of rights caused by the USA PATRIOT Act is because of the nature of the Act. It allows the government to detain anyone, anytime, without providing a reason, without allowing a trial, and without ever having to let them go. We don't know about any abuses because the abuse is also in the covering up. There may be thousands of prisoners held somewhere, not knowing why they are held, or how long they will be held for, but we will never know, because they are held, and the USA PATRIOT Act allows this to happen. They can't tell us that they're being abused because they have lost all of their rights. For those of you who are skimming, here it is in one sentence: There are no reported abuses by the USA PATRIOT Act because the Act itself suppresses reports of abuse.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton