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Republican Leadership Ready to
Attack Our Civil Liberties Again

by Wayne A. Lewis
June 14, 2004
First Published in OpEdNews.Com

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Last year, during the 1st session of the 108th Congress, the Republican leadership slipped a provision into the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 (which mainly appropriates the funds to the intelligence organizations.) This was done behind closed doors. Who on the House Judiciary Committee would vote against this nonpartisan bill? This bill was needed to pass as it has every year. What wasn’t needed was a provision taken from the leaked draft of Ashcroft’s Domestic Security Enhancement Act (DSEA.) This provision expanded the already far-reaching USA PATRIOT Act by easing the FBI’s ability to acquire "financial" records with nothing more than an easily drafted National Security Letter (NSL.) It also broadened the definition of "financial institution" to include insurance companies, real estate agencies, stockbrokers, car dealerships, pawnbrokers and more. This had the effect of further eroding what was left of our civil liberties after the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act. So there it was -- Ashcroft’s dream – a portion of the ill-fated DSEA brought to fruition.

Now, it is happening again. It is time for the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2005 to come before the House Intelligence Committee. This is scheduled for June 16. This time portions of the Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003 (HR 3179) is planned to be slipped into this intelligence (mostly basic funding) bill again. Like last session, this will be done behind closed doors by Bush’s Republican leadership with almost no debate or discussion. This time it will also include some provisions from the DSEA such as abridging the fifth and fourteenth amendments for immigrants by use of secret information from National Security Letters that are used in immigration proceedings. It will also provide for penalties for failing to cooperate with the FBI when it requests issuance of National Security Letters, demanding private information. These are just more provisions the FBI does not need added to their tool belt of anti-terrorism measures. The provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that are due to expire on December 12, 2005 have not even had a chance to be reviewed yet. This review step is necessary first to determine if these "hurried through" provisions were necessary or just plain Orwellian. Is this just another secret expansion of this administration’s power over the people?

Among all this, there is an optimistic chance that with a new bill, the Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) due to be introduced June 8 this year by Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Feingold (D-WI), and Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate. This bill would restore some of our civil liberties that were abridged under the USA PATRIOT Act. Some of these are: limit secret seizures of records, mandate reports on data-mining, ensure access to evidence (people who are charged with a crime based upon national security surveillance under the Patriot Act would see the evidence against them), require accurate criminal databases (accurate NCIC information requirements) and several provisions dealing with immigrants.

With some real grassroots activism, we may be able to get he CLRA passed and prevent provisions from HR 3179 from being stealthy tacked on to a nonpartisan bill that will surely pass.

Wayne A Lewis lives in Helena , Montana. He is a political activist and a strong believer in the anti-globalization movement. He has also been involved with human rights and low-income advocacy. He has lived in, and studied political and social conditions in Central America. He can be reached at: This article first appeared in Op Ed