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United States Your Rights Online

Anti-Civil Liberties Legislation Progresses 348

Posted by michael
from the steamroller dept.
hillct writes: "The ACLU has a very good comparison chart of anti-terrorism provisions in legislation currently being considered by congress. It covers the Combating Terrorism Act of 2001, the House Bill (PATRIOT Act) and the Senate Bill (USA Act), comparing it all to current law. We've all seen pieces of this information but the ACLU staffers did a great job consolidating it all." CDT also has a very good pdf guide to these about-to-be-passed laws. But the Onion has the best commentary.
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Anti-Civil Liberties Legislation Progresses

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  • Scary Part (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gimmie_prozac (525455)
    The scary part about legislation like this is that once it is adopted, it tends to stay in place. Today's ant-terrorism initiaitve is tommorow's rationale of the cops to packet-sniff your ISP...
    • How long will posters here continue to believe they have any privacy to protect???

      The only place you have privacy is in a room in your house with no windows. Otherwise assume you are being observed.

      If you have a credit card, your entire purchase history is in a database.

      If you have a drivers license or ssn which you use to identify yourself, your activities can be traced.

      You phone can be trivially tapped.

      You are being videotaped in most public buildings whether you know it or not.

      Your internet connection is the most trivial of all to tap and trace.

      Use TiVo? You viewing habits are in a database.

      Where oh where is this privacy you are trying to protect? At least a national ID card would make everyone aware of the fact that they have ZERO privacy.

      • The problem isn't the privacy itself. It's the utter lack of respect for the "innocent until proven guilty" concept. It's the "seizure" part of "search and seizure" that bothers most people. If someone wants to waste their time spying on me I don't care. But if that someone wants to take my possesions based only on "suspicion" without any checks and balances to control that power, then I'm damn well gonna complain. I don't want to be the next Steve Jackson Games.

        If all they did was observe passively I wouldn't care. But it doesn't *stop* with mere observation.

  • by pyramid termite (458232) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:00PM (#2412458)
    "The Bush administration's anti-terrorism legislation has stalled because of one senator's concern that it will erode civil liberties. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., tried to hurry the bill through Tuesday, but Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., refused Daschle's request to let the bill go through without debate or amendment."

    I'm glad to see that one of our representatives feels a responsibility to have this discussed before it's passed. The article's available through Yahoo's home page - it would seem that Feingold wants to change several key provisions of the bill.
    • Feingold's a good guy - he co-authored the Senate version of the campaign finance bill that is currently stuck in the House. Maybe a /. interview is in order.
    • Feingold is my state senator. I'd be willing to put together an interview email to him. I've also got some contacts in the media here.
    • by pherris (314792) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:47PM (#2412662) Homepage Journal
      "Senator Blocks Attempt to Pass Bill"
      http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011010/us/atta ck s_terror_laws_2.html

      BTW, you can thank him for doing the right thing at:
      http://feingold.senate.gov/services/contactrdf.h tm l#form

      pherris
    • by DunbarTheInept (764) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @05:07PM (#2412773) Homepage
      Remember the mis-named CDA - Communications Decency (yeah right) Act? Fiengold was only of only two (that's right TWO) senators who voted against it. He specificly cited the civil liberties problems in the bill as his reason for not supporting it.

      I don't agree with everything he does, but on the basis of that one vote alone he earned a lot of respect from me. He was a relative newcomer and began making waves almost immediately with his campaign finance reform bill (with McCain), and his willingness to protect individual rights even when it's politically dangerous to take such a stand (like with the CDA, and now this).

      Hat's off to him. If he runs again, he gets my vote. (I'm in Wisconsin). Tonight I'll look up the snail address to send him some dead trees letting him know this. (It's important to tell your representatives when you agree with them just as much as it's important to tell them when you disagree.)

      • by Sarcasmooo! (267601) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @05:57PM (#2413055)
        "What we are seeing on television are not really party conventions, where representative delegates come to confer and choose, rather, these are basically now corporate trade shows for the delegates, while the main show is behind closed doors at big dollar soft money fund-raisers, and those soft money contributions, make no mistake, are setting the agenda for the American congress, and for the United States as a whole.

        So, my friends, these conventions are both examples and symbols of a broader problem. We have devolved from a representative democracy to a corporate democracy in this country. This is not a system of one person one vote, or one delegate one vote, but a system of one million dollars, one million votes. It is a system of legalized bribery and legalized extortion."


        (the speech [tompaine.com])
  • by jd (1658)
    All it needs is maybe some Sage. I suggest the team from "The Mary Whitehouse Experience". They've not been doing much satirical commentary, lately, despite the fact that they're probably the best there's been. (Even TW3 - That Was The Week That Was - was tame, in many ways, in comparison.)
  • by Dr. Awktagon (233360) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:02PM (#2412475) Homepage

    Under the definition proposed by the Administration, even acts of simple civil disobedience could lead organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to become targets of "terrorist" investigations.

    Say, maybe these laws aren't so bad after all...

    *ducks and runs* ... errm... *crouches down and runs* (don't want to offend the ducks)

    • I disagree with the definitions proposed by the administration. PETA aren't terrorists, they're just obsessive weirdoes with nothing better to do.

      Oh wait, maybe they *are* terrorists...

    • by dillon_rinker (17944) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @06:21PM (#2413171) Homepage
      This has been moderated up as funny, but that kind of comment is EXACTLY why the ACLU will receieve no support from me, despite my general agreement with their principles, their goals, and their methods. They have NO CLUE how to communiate. I heard a local rep of the ACLU on the radio discussing a local issue, involving a racist-motivated closure of streets. On one side was a business person who sounded completely reasonable and reassuring and saying that there was NO bad intent behind what they were doing. On the other side was a fumbling idiot who asked loaded questions that were easily sidestepped by the businessman.

      Now here we have an anti-terrorism bill that may have the effect of - gasp! - shutting down PETA, which is viewed be MANY Americans as an extremist group whose members throw blood on people and support blowing up labs where animal testing takes place. In other words, this anti-terrorist bill may extend the definition of terrorism to include groups that many view as borderline terrorists anyway. They are strictly preaching to the choir on this one, and it does NO ONE any good when you preach to the converted.

      They all need a good course in corporate law and communications. They need to learn the same rhetorical weapons that the corporatists who are dismantling are freedoms are using. They need to learn to persuade the mass of sheep who are Americans that there really ARE dangers to civil liberties or they will start to be ignored as the extremists they seem to be. And that would be a crying shame.
  • Martial Law (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:02PM (#2412479) Homepage
    How long before martial law is the norm? What will 'martial law' be like then? I've noticed instead of what don't we have the right to do, we now ask what do we have the right to do in the past century. Even under the strictest rules, if you want to bomb something, you're going to bomb something. Its up to intelligence agencies and police forces to find out who wants to bomb what, and then stop them. Laws are like fences. They sit there and hope to deter would-be criminals. But there isn't anything stopping someone who isn't deterred from breaking that law...We should just make bombs illegal. That would have about as much effect.
    • Remember that Al Capone was put away for tax evasion, not murder, extortion, or any of a hundred other crime that he was responsible for directly or indirectly. If you make sure that it's very easy to become a criminal, then you can more easily pick them up, keep them off the street, and make sure they don't do anything bad.

      I mean who of us doesn't break the occasional law? Maybe it's just speeding or making a copy of a friend's software or downloading an MP3 from Morpheus. They'd be happy to have an endless intermeshing of complex and confusing laws so that they can detain anybody before they become a "real threat".

      What if tomorrow they outlawed uncertified, non-backdoored encryption standards. Then all of the terrorists who give two shits about our laws will still break them, but all of a sudden they can be arrested for these more minor infractions. This gives law enforcement a means to detain and prosecute them even if it isn't for the murder of thousands of people.

      Sure, they'd also find all of these other people violating that law because we don't care to have the government being able to see everything at a moment's notice. But hey, what's the sacrifice of a couple crypto dissidents going to prison if we can make everybody safe.

      *sigh*
    • by Asikaa (207070)
      "We should just make bombs illegal"

      You mean they're not? Someone should tell Wal-Mart about this missed opportunity.

    • The USA is not, and has never been in, a state of martial law.
  • Are we at war? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clovis (4684) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:03PM (#2412482)
    The suspension of civil rights during a war is OK by me - it's an old tradition and a sensible one. Are we having a war with someone?

    The problem I have is that Constitution reserves the right to declare war to Congress. If we need war powers, fine, declare war. It sure looks like one to me.
    Otherwise, don't mess with my Bill of Rights.
    • Quick quiz: what was the last time congress actually officially declared war?
    • Re:Are we at war? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by greenfly (40953)
      I suppose the problem is that, especially with these new definitions of war. We could be at "war" indefinitely. I mean, we didn't declare war on Afghanistan, we declared war on "terrorism" and have stated that this war will not end until all terrorists are stopped.

      Now... these goals are kind of vauge to me. It is the kind of thing that could lend itself to a "war" that lasts for decades, all the while our civil liberties would be suspended "for the war". Say, while we are at it, why don't we suspend our civil liberties to help fight the "war" on drugs too. There's another war that I'm sure we will end in a month or two!

      1984 allusions are running rampant at this moment, but "we have always been at war with Eurasia".
      • Re:Are we at war? (Score:2, Informative)

        by dachshund (300733)
        Say, while we are at it, why don't we suspend our civil liberties to help fight the "war" on drugs too.

        Don't worry, we already have. Take a look at some of the asset forfeiture [fear.org] laws commonly used to get drug dealers. If the law can't pin a case on you, it'll pin one on your property. Forget about the Constitution, forget about the right to a Jury trial.


    • The bill that Congress passed after 8.4 milliseconds of debate -- I forget its name, the one that basically gave the blank check to Dubya -- apparently is no different with respect to the Constitution from a declaration of war.

      At least, that's what the talking heads have been saying.

    • Re:Are we at war? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by poemofatic (322501)
      Problem is, we just got out of the Cold War, in which people were arrested for their political beliefs (socialists/communists), loyalty oaths were imposed, and a national security state descended upon us. Then, after our enemy rudely abandoned the game, we had the War on Drugs, with asset forfeiture laws, more wiretaps, and a bigger budget for the security agencies. Now we have the War on Terrorism, with more police powers, bad laws, and yes even more money for the security agencies. After that, you'll be laying down the bill of rights because of the War on Pollution.

  • by idonotexist (450877) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:05PM (#2412494)
    First off, I am happy ACLU has released this report and is lobbying against provisions limiting civil liberties. However, very a long time, I have been confused over the absence of the ACLU in fighting court cases and legislation curtailing digital liberties. I have not seen ACLU participate in DMCA cases or against proposed legislation such as SSSCA. As a result, I assume the ACLU has no argument over such laws.

    But, given that ACLU has a mission, stating the obvious, to promote liberties, why has the ACLU long been absent on issues related to technology? Is it merely because there is an absence of techie members in the ACLU to advance such causes? Or does ACLU really dislike issues related to technology?
    • This question and its answer have been posted before.

      Simply put, the ACLU, while famous, is a small organization with a limited budget. At the few ACLU events I've attended (yes, I am a member), I've been one of the few (perhaps only) technologically savvy persons. The ACLU does not tend to be the lead organization on information technology issues because EFF takes on that role. It's called division of labor, not lack of interest. Does the EFF take stands on racial profiling, the drug war, etc.?

    • by revscat (35618) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:54PM (#2412702) Journal

      But, given that ACLU has a mission, stating the obvious, to promote liberties, why has the ACLU long been absent on issues related to technology?

      What are you talking about? The ACLU has a long history of defending tech rights, and were the first organization to challenge an Internet-related federal law and have it heard by the Supreme Court. Check out Reno v. ACLU [aclu.org] if you haven't done so before. This case was heard way, way back in 1997. The ACLU has also worked in conjunction with the EFF and/or EPIC on numerous occasions.

      More recently they have filed amicus briefs in cases regarding anonymous speech [aclu.org] on the net, as well as in the DeCSS [aclu.org] case.

      To state that the ACLU has "no argument" with laws such as the DMCA or the SSSCA is to argue from simple ignorance. Both of those laws directly conflict with the values that the ACLU tries to advance and preserve.

    • I have not seen ACLU participate in DMCA cases or against proposed legislation such as SSSCA. As a result, I assume the ACLU has no argument over such laws.

      just because you haven't seen something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. in actuality, the ACLU filed a friend-of-court-brief [aclu.org] int the 2600 decss case.

      -BlueLines
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:07PM (#2412502)
    This is slightly off topic, however it does apply when you start thinking about what information is currently available.

    A lot of information on the web has recently been deleted. While it is true that Google has much of this material cached [searchenginewatch.com], more and more information related to war, disease, and terrorism will go away.

    While we need to worry about security, we also need to care about security. When folks get information, they can make choices. When choice is available, we have room for freedom.

  • by The Slashdolt (518657) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:07PM (#2412505) Homepage
    This [indefenseoffreedom.org] is a petition to keep people from taking your freedom. Stand up for your rights, please! Do it before it's too late. It's much more difficult to take back laws once they are in place.
    • Yeah, because we all know a list of e-mail addresses is great for swaying the opinions of politicians. Here, let me upload my CD-ROM of 10,000 e-mail addresses...
    • by cheezus (95036) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @05:12PM (#2412798) Homepage
      The ACLU lets you send a free fax via the web to your senators on the issue. I've used their service for other issues, and have usually gotten a response, so that's a good indication that *someone* is reading the fax.

      http://www.aclu.org/action/usa107.html [aclu.org]

      • Will someone please mod up the parent? I just sent a fax to my two Senators this way. This is an easy and fast way to get out message in front of a LOT of senators.

        They read faxes and this method doesn't even cost a phone call (sorry, now I sound like Sally Struthers... for less than the cost of a cup of coffee..., ACK.).

    • Y'know, these petitions are nice and all, but sometimes I wonder if they actually hurt more than they help. Instead of people taking a bit more time to contact their legislators in a more traditional manner (which from everything I've read is far more effective), they can get the satisfaction of "doing something" without having to put in any real effort.
      What I'd like to see is an 'issue' site where you could not only sign a petition but pump in your zip code and get a shotgun blast of response methods: a standard letter (editable); fax numbers to your representatives, important staffers, and committee members; auto-email capability; postal addresses and a pretty print page for snail mailing; etc.
      Basically a page with a couple of input boxes, some checkboxes and a submit button that fires off a flurry of righteous indignation! :)

  • It will probably turn out that we're bombing camp grounds or something. Camp grounds, dirt roads, small runways...I don't see much of a need to take away our civil liberties. Life goes on, even without the WTC, and the people involved. Why should we all be less free? Might that have been bin Laden's real goal?
  • One last time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SecurityGuy (217807) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:10PM (#2412527)
    If there isn't a torrent of letters and phone calls while such things still matter, each and every one of us will deserve whatever we get. Get off your as^H^Hslashdot and get on the phone, get a letter written, and get it to the post office. Now. These guys are intent on "protecting" us no matter how much harm they do in the process.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:12PM (#2412538) Journal
    You Know there is a problem when groups from across the political spectrum are complaining about the loss of rights.

    The is a petition to retain your Civil Rights at Defend Your Freedom dot org [defendyourfreedom.org]. I have seen stuff on this sort of thing from everyone including the KKK to the ACLU, Pat Buchanon, and Common Cause. Something strange is going on when people across the spectrum are bitching, not just the wierdos [rense.com].

    Heck, even the Department of Homeland Security sounds like something out of Nazi Germany. This is unfortunate given the allegations that the Bush grandfather made his fortune in trade with that country.

    There is a whole lot of political dirty laundry out there that needs to be washed.

    • Heck, even the Department of Homeland Security sounds like something out of Nazi Germany.

      While it hardly matters where such hideous things first evolved, you might consider Stalin's campain against "wreckers" [google.com] particularly chilling. As part of his attempt to undermine potential opposition (ie any profesional, priest, officer, or person who had ever read anything) he made them all into potential forgien agents. Films were made where the vilian took money from the Germans to destroy factories and harvests. It terrorized the whole society and shook it to the core. In a country with an accute shortage of competent engineers, engineers were put on trial, jailed and even executed for supposed sabotage. They made great scape goats for his faild social policies.

      Hitler got most of his tricks from the old man of steel. Orwell, having survived the conflict between the two, imagined governments that were continously at war and lobbed missiles at their own people to keep them upset. Kill Goldstien!

      We are not there yet, but SSCA, DMCA, and other oppresive laws aimed at putting desperatly needed IT folks in jail are ominous. The popular culture has not been kind to hackers lately. How do you like being portrayed as a criminal interested only in stealing music, spam, breaking into military computers and stealing credit cards? Perceptions are powerful and bad ones can hurt you.

  • This one's scary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Red Aardvark House (523181) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:13PM (#2412550)
    From the CDT summary:

    Interception of computer trespasser communications (House 105, Senate 217)-
    Allows ISP's, universities, network administrators to authorize surveillance without judicial order


    Who left these entities to decide what's right or wrong? IMHO, this is too much power left to entities not expert in the field of law.

    What's even worse is that there is no expectation of privacy for "unauthorized use" although that term is not defined. So it's up to the individual interpreter of the proposed law. Even the downloading of an unauthorized mp3 can allow the tapping of all communications by that individual, with no time limit!

    The effects could be far-reaching, from unnecessary accusations of terrorism, to less privacy in the workplace.
  • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:13PM (#2412553)
    Although America brags about its cival liberities. But when there is a threat Americans are so ready to give them up. It seems to be that real Americans are the ones who stand up in times of threat and disaster and say to the law makers that what they are doing is wrong. And like many times in the past history will look down on your desisions. Like gathering asian americans in WWII. Blacklisting "Comunists" during the Cold War. What ever happened to the addage Although I dont agree with what you say but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.
    • Americans are willing to give them up? I haven't encountered anyone who was much more willing than usual. What we have here are a bunch of power mad *** at the top of the hierarchy. (Never mind about how they got there. Gore wasn't much better.)

      And we have an age distribution that's peaking at over 40, so there are fewer people who are willing to take chances to defy the government.

      And we have a centralized control of the major media, by people that are inclined to go along (or even push a bit) in any plan to centralize control.

      And we have politicians who depend on large corporate sponsors to be able to afford to campaign for election.

      So it's a bit difficult for the average american to find out what's really going on, much less to do anything about it. (Individual people are, on the average, quite a lot easier to control than a mob. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes not.)

      In the current situation, without any reference to external entities, we would naturally tend to drift in a more centralized and authoritarian direction. But we have a *** at the top who doesn't have the patience to wait for a drift. And then there's a (probably) external "cause celebre" to take advantage of. And ...

      I would wager that a lot of people are looking for a way out.
  • by poemofatic (322501) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:14PM (#2412556)
    is any sort of justification. For instance, increased wiretap auhtority. Just how would it have prevented the attack of Sept. 11? What sorts of nasty things are terrorists doing that we can't combat with the current system? How would required back doors make us safer?

    I'm beginning to see a purely visceral response: terrorism => we are in danger => police need more powers.

    On another note, where is the debate? I keep hearing that there will be one, but has anyone seen a member of the administration make a reasoned defense of these bills? Outlined why they are needed? Responded to criticism? Has there even been any criticism in the major media? (links would be appreciated)

  • Why, oh why... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZaMoose (24734) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:14PM (#2412558)
    ...post a link to the Onion today? It always gets beaten on on Wednesdays (when they update). Now it's going to take forever for me to get the infographic... *sigh*

    Although I think they ran the best series of reaction pieces to 9/11 I've seen, particularly "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule" and "Terrorists Surprised to find Selves in Hell".

    Of course, with new info pointing to the fact that only ~6 of the 'jackers actually knew it was a suicide mission might lend credence to that last story...
  • by Mister Black (265849) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:16PM (#2412569)
    This is the kind of knee-jerk, reactionary legislation that scares me most. "We need to destroy our freedom in order to save it." If we're going to just trample all over the Constitution of the United States, we might as well just merge the FBI and CIA into a new organization called the KGB and call ourselves the Soviet Union 2.0
  • Ummm...PETA/ELF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:33PM (#2412620)
    "The definition of "terrorism" is too broad, permitting the special surveillance powers granted in this legislation to be applied far beyond what is commonly thought of by the term. Under the definition proposed by the Administration, even acts of simple civil disobedience could lead organizations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to become targets of "terrorist" investigations."

    Well, I might get flamed for this, but...

    While I do not support laws that infringe on any of the Amendments to the Constitution...

    Some of the things that groups like the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) do...is terrorism.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/search-results/con tr ibutors/kurtz071701.shtml

    "Eco-terrorism, sponsored by loosely knit groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, began in earnest in 1998, with the burning down of a mountaintop ski resort in Vail Colorado, the release of 10,000 minks from an Oregon mink farm, and the burning of a slaughterhouse. Eco-terrorism has proliferated since then, although, until recently, fear of provoking further retaliation has prevented targeted businesses from publicizing the problem. Biotechnology projects are the latest targets, with a fire set to the offices of a global biotech project at Michigan State University in Lansing and various experimental crop sites destroyed."

    Events like that, terrorizing people that wear fur or leather, it's not right. In a society based on Common Law, like the US, those things that are not illegal are legal, wearing leather or fur, or raising minks for fur, isn't illegal and it's not right for a private citizen to attack that property. Many of the *LF groups are starting down the same path as Hezbollah and Hamas did in the 60s and 70s. If those domestic groups practice the same kind of distributed terror as Aryan Nation or Hezbollah, the Police and FBI should go after them with the same tools as they go after other "hate" groups.

    PETA branding people for a choice of calories is no more right than Aryan Nation branding people for a choice of mate or church.

  • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:33PM (#2412622) Homepage
    ...in this case, I am glad for the analysis which they have done. As I have read the basic news stories on this, all I ever heard was that certain politicians had "concerns", but no legal analysis of what is good and bad in the proposed changes to the current laws.

    My interest in posting is to pose questions as to the various facets of the currently proposed laws could be improved to so that the various gov't agencies who are charged with keeping the rest of us reasonably safe have a better legal tool set with which to do so, without the significant loss of civil liberties.

    So, what are the /. thoughts/analysis on these questions: Is the ACLU analysis spot on? extremist? Not harsh enough?... Are there other views on these various points that we should consider important enough to not protest all of the changes? and finally, my pet question: how can we get the ACLU as up in arms about the DCMA and the SSSCA as they are about these acts?

  • I was reading this Onion story yesterday, and the problem I see with it, is that it's just too subtle.

    Yes, you read that correctly, and I'm not being sarcastic.

    I'd bet any major newspaper could run that story word-for-word, and the majority of US sheeple would not only believe it happened, but agree with the "government's" position.

    It's just too subtle.
  • You have to love it when governments squeeze seemingly unrelated items into a bill they are trying to pass. Check out Secion 503 of the Patriot Act (emphasis mine):

    SEC. 503. LIMITED AUTHORITY TO PAY OVERTIME.

    The matter under the headings `Immigration And Naturalization Service: Salaries and Expenses, Enforcement And Border Affairs and Immigration And Naturalization Service: Salaries and Expenses, Citizenship And Benefits, Immigration And Program Direction' in the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, 2001 (as enacted into law by Appendix B (H.R. 5548) of Public Law 106-553 (114 Stat. 2762A-58 to 2762A-59)) is amended by striking the following each place it occurs: `Provided, That none of the funds available to the Immigration and Naturalization Service shall be available to pay any employee overtime pay in an amount in excess of $30,000 during the calendar year beginning January 1, 2001:'.

    Would someone please tell me how this helps in the "fight against terrorism"? Never mind that it seems like an awful lot of overtime, just how does it help the anti-terrorism cause to limit overtime pay? Employees of the above departments might be forced to work a lot more overtime given the new restrictions that might be placed on their work and this just serves to screw them if they happen to work quite a lot more. This just seems like a petty section.

    ian.

    • If you reread what the part just before what you highlighted (the part that says "striking the following each place it occurs"), you will see that they are REMOVING the restriction on overtime pay, exactly the opposite of what you are complaining about.

  • by JPMH (100614) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:48PM (#2412665)
    As part of a wider report into the future of the UK justice system published on Monday, Lord Justice Auld recommends removing the right of trial by jury in 50% of current cases.

    The right to trial by jury would be abolished in all instances where the sentence was likely to be less than two years. This would include most prosecutions under sec. 296 of the Copyrights Designs and Patents Act (the UK's DMCA), as well as serious reputation-destroying charges such as theft, assault and drug offences, where defendants can at the moment insist on jury trials. To prevent "perverse" decisions, Auld also recommends that judges should be allowed to ask juries specific menus of questions about the facts of the case instead of innocent-or-guilty verdicts, reserving the final decision for the judge themself.

    In a democratic system, the last ditch defence against a really bad law is that a jury can refuse to convict, in spite of the evidence, if they think that the prosecution is unfair or unreasonable. Cases thrown out by UK juries against the evidence in recent years include vandalism charges against GM crop protesters, official secrets charges against civil service whistleblowers and shoplifting charges against confused elderly people. Juries have also tended to be more critical of police evidence than judges and court officials; and to have had more relaxed views in obscenity and pornography cases.

    Specific comment: Independent [independent.co.uk], Guardian [guardian.co.uk]
    General reports: BBC [bbc.co.uk], Times [thetimes.co.uk], Telegraph [telegraph.co.uk], Guardian [guardian.co.uk], Independent [independent.co.uk]
    (submitted to /. yro yesterday; rejected).

    And remember, as this week's NTK [ntk.net] points out, bad UK law is often just version 0.1 for bad law in the US.

  • I was willing to stay and get anthraxed or fuel bombed. I am not willing to stay here and get dragged off by the new police state. Does anyone know how hard it is to emmigrate to Canada?
    • Troll? Why Troll? I bet there are thousands of Americans who'll be fleeing this country soon. But not, I think, to Canada; it's too close to the US. I myself would be more partial to The Netherlands. They at least know what civil liberties are. They at least don't legislate morality. They at least just keep their noses out of their citizens' private affairs. To hear Ashcroft talk, US citizens have no private affairs now.

      Let me share a nice quote I saw today with you all...


      "Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

      -- Hermann Goering


      I'd say it's abundantly apparent "our" leaders have read that statement from Hitler's right-hand man before.

    • Too late - same stupid shit's probably coming up here too. [cbc.ca]

      I'll take the opportunity to mention that if WW III goes all-out, I may head north, quickly, and try to start a small safe community with some friends and other individuals interested in staying alive. If you have access to solar panels, stuff that can be used to convert biomass to energy, building materials, water filtration equipment, etc... just keep this in mind, in case... you know... shit happens.
  • ...not an absolute.

    When the country was founded, there was a HUGE debate over whether "we, the people" could be trusted to govern ourselves. Those who favored democracy felt we did; those who wanted to create a mini-Great Britain didn't. So in the end, we got a balancing act in which we democratically elect representatives, in whom we trust to do the right thing. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, but that's besides the point. The point is, we have a hybrid system on purpose.

    So in the wake of 9/11 we can expect the balance to be reopened for debate. The question is still and always has been this: can you trust an open society of common people to make the right decisions and act like good citizens? Or do you have to have a central government provide a high degree oversight and control?

    I'm voting that we've still got what it takes. I hope the changes that get passed are minor ones. To do otherwise would be to give up on the "great experiment" that is the point of having a separate country in the first place.
  • by kdeFan (466344) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:57PM (#2412721)
    Something that hasn't had much attention is the proposal that would create a moratorium on new student visas. Apparently, one of the attackers was in the US on a student visa, so some lawmakers would like to deny entry to foreign students. This would have the side-effect of meaning that foreign students couldn't leave the US until they finish their education, or they wouldn't be readmitted (we have to surrender our visas when we leave and have our status reevaluated every time we enter the US). Personally, I wish I could go home for Christmas and spend the holidays with my family.

    I fully understand that Americans are frightened and need to protect themselves, but I don't think this particular proposal will have the intended effect. Students are a small minority of foreigners in this country and it's easier to get here other ways. If you just enter on a vacation, for example, you don't need proof of acceptance to a school or financial documents. I do agree that the student visa system needs an overhaul and better security, but not a moratorium. For that matter, in light of the terrible events on Sept. 11, the entire immigration system needs to be scrutinized. Anyway, I offer my personal condolences to the Americans in the /. readership and I hope you know that, for what it's worth, your friends to the north stand behind you all the way.
  • Judicial review (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @04:58PM (#2412728) Homepage
    Everything the Administration wants to do, it can do right now if a judge approves. Yet the FBI isn't complaining that judges are turning down their requests for search warrants or wiretap orders in terrorism cases. So there's no problem. All this is just Ashcroft on a power trip. He should be replaced.
    • You aren't paying attention.... the correct statement would be "Everything the Administration wants to do, it can do right now if judges approve." The administration argument on many of these items is that, when conducting nationwide investigations to prevent or prosecute terrorism and organized crime, the current need to obtain many approvals from many judges in many different jurisdictions is so time consuming and beaurocratically stifling, that they aren't able to effectively carry out their job. And in certain instances they are correctly claiming that they are not allowed to do certain things (they can't tap the phone used by a given individual, but can only tap a given phone line, for example, or having to avoid official criminal investigations in situations which might also have counterintelligence and antiterrorism components, because they have different, mutually exclusive requirements and conditions)

      As to your claim that this is just a power trip: not liking Ashcroft is one thing, but distorting his words to support your desires is intellectually dishonest. You ought to be clear of the facts before spouting your opinion about them.

  • You know, at first I was telling myself, "Well, at least this isn't the Sedition Act or internment camps." But upon closer reading, I'm not sure.

    The lack of judicial oversight, the broadened definition of "terrorism" to include common civil disobedience tactics, and the ability to continue surveillance after it's no longer useful to an investigation all sounds tailor-made for keeping tabs on and incarcerating political dissidents.

    Time to waste more postage on my representatives...

    OK,
    - B

  • Personally, I think that when terrorists attack, that is not the time to quickly abandon freedom, judicial process, and other things that make our civilisation what it is: I think on the contrary that this is the time to hold on to these principles extra carefully.

    A shame to see that in all the polls I have seen recently on CNN and in newspapers, whenever the question is about abolishing a civil liberty, roughly 80% is in favour. I sure hope we get back to thinking again soon.
  • The Constitution is supposed to protect us from the government spying on us in our private lives. The Bill of Rights reiterates this, saying "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized" (Amendment #4). The bills currently going through would violate these ideas
    On a side note, I must point out that the Constitution does not protect you from your ISP or other access/content provider spying on you or your activities. If they determine you are being bad and then go to the authorities, you could be investigated further, and probably legally.
    Our best hope here is that after these laws pass (and they probably will) that a relatively benign case makes its way to the Supreme Court, and that they will strike the law down as unconstitutional.
  • "Don't give up Liberty in the zeal to defend it."

    What do you think? Keep the old one, or replace with the new one?

    -S
  • I'm not one of your constituents, and I very rarely write to my congresscritters (as they seem to be more responsive to lobbyists demands than public good). I just wanted to thank you for your efforts to block the disasterous ATA (anti-terrorism act) and the Bush Administration's drive to completely shred what is left of our Constitution.

    Their rush to defend our freedoms by destroying them chills me. I am more afraid of THEIR efforts than the actions of the most black-hearted terrorist, as it is abundantly clear which will have more disasterous long term effects.

    Please continue to defend our civil liberties by preventing kneejerk reactionary responses similar to what we saw in the McCarthy Era and the Cold War.
  • by Ghoser777 (113623) <fahrenba@@@mac...com> on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @05:12PM (#2412797) Homepage
    "Freedom is like a rope made of several strands.
    Weaken or remove one strand, and the rope is
    weakened... There are bad people in the world,
    ever watchful for opportunities to seize dominance
    over others. For good people to stand idly by is
    to welcome the erosion and eventual collapse of
    all our freedoms." David F. Linowes

    At the point where all freedoms are up for grabs, so is everything America stands for and is embeded in the Constiution. These crisis brings us incrementally closer to more rights losses, many of which are covert in the eyes of average Americans. If we want to protect are freedom, we must act now and set a precedent: under no circumstances will we give up our rights for utilitarian ends.

    F-bacher
  • Internet, USA: The online community was stunned when it discovered their favorite lampoon magazine, The Onion, was starting to run actual news stories.

    "I was reading this article, expecting a laugh, but the laugh never came!" sobbed one long-time Onion reader. "I depend on the Onion to distract me from facts, and what do they do!" After speaking with us she left for her lawyer's office intending to sue.

    Other online news entities were similarly stunned. Matt Drudge refused to talk with us; Joe Farah of World Net Daily simply stated, "it's war!" CmdrTaco of Slashdot said that "it'll be nice to have someone who actually REPORTS the news."
    • Milwaukee, WI: The editors of The Onion, long considered one of America's best sources of satirical news, surprised the world today by retracting a story entitled "Freedoms Curtailed in Defense of Liberty".

      One Onion staffmember spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It was just too realistic. People actually thought this was a real story! I guess that's kind of scary." He continued: "I mean, what do we have to do to, label every page with 'WARNING: Contains Satire, Witty Postmodern Observations and a General Sense of Cynicism'? Why don't people get it?"

      "I mean, sheesh, we regularly run stories that anthropomorphise animals and quote God as using the f-bomb. How much more obvious can we be?"

      The internet community was unavailable for comment.
  • by dgroskind (198819) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @05:29PM (#2412896)

    Obviously the best restriction on traditional liberties is no restriction. However, given the terrorist threat, the ACLU would be more helpful by saying what restrictions it thinks are acceptable or useful or even necessary rather than dismissing them all as if nothing changed on Sept. 11.

    For instance, it says: "Few of the provisions being discussed are needed for the current terrorism investigations, so Congress should take the time to do it right." But it does not say which of the "few" it feels are necessary and that Congress should therefore act on expeditiously.

    In addition, all of these acts are subject to judicial review under the Constitution. No Constitutional right can be removed by an act of Congress. If there is a problem, it is that some of the so-called rights we take for granted are not protected by the Constitution.

    The ACLU only says a few provisions explicitely violate the U.S. Constitution: (1) Nationwide pen register/trap and trace orders and roving wiretaps, and (2) Criminal evidence uncovered using an intelligence (FISA) wiretap. It doesn't mention a Constitutional test for the others, which should be the first objection raised.

    One question is whether the terrorists pose a greater real and immediate threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than the provisions mentioned by the ACLU. If so, the laws that are providing shelter for the terrorists are going to have to be changed.

  • In the debate about civil rights and liberties, I see daily references to everything and everyone from the Constitution, to Ben Franklin, to the Bill of rights. And rightly so. One person who seems to have been missed (and perhaps I just didn't see it), is the gentleman from Virginia, the strongest advocate for the creation and inclusion of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. I am, of course, referring to Patrick Henry, whose "give me liberty, or give me death" again takes on particular importance and relevance.

    I do not think he would have had kind words for those who wish to restrict our liberties in exchange for a marginal improvement in "security".

  • You can find your reps mailing address at Contacting the Congress [visi.com] .
  • by sabinm (447146) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @05:53PM (#2413030) Homepage Journal
    Instead of reading 1984, you should really read Orwell's commentary. It states some thins that really need to be addressed.

    1. There is supposed to be a state of constant war. Orwell states that this constant war is used to keep the people nationallistcally proud of their country, while suffering privations for the "war effort" Remember the theory that the bombs were dropped by Oceana itself (not suggesting in any way that the terroists were not responsible just emphasiszing that in order for docility there needs to be a constant anxiety about war)? The constant state of war also lends people to worry about the nessecities of war and not the niceties of freedom and comfort.


    2. Every citizen a criminal. The only way to keep people in check was to criminalize everything, down to thought. The understanding is that if you can be caught at anything, you will watch everything that you do or say. If posting negative comments about the party (Bill Maher) got you tortured or killed, you'd be likely not to speak out. If thinking ill about the party could get you busted by the goon squad, then you would even fear yourself.


    3. The most frightening thing about taking away liberties is that it is a slippery slope. Remember that once the Party had a modicum of power, it's only goal was power. Soon after a few generation, there would be no thoughtcrime or punishment, because man would cease to be man in any recognisable sense. In other words, there would be no thought as we know it and so no thought crime. Today it's internet, tv and newspapers, tomorrow it's your desktop, the day after, your home and in a few years, your children have no concept of home. Scary. All too real.



    What we need to do is make a conscious decision to effectively protest this crime against America and technology by having a "Tech out" like if this gets passed that we just do our jobs like normal, but when we get home, don't sit in front of the screen. I know that's a lot to ask of people who live and breath by the I/O but there has to be an effective voice to speak out against our liberties getting trampled on in the name of freedom. As too often is the case, we are conscientious objectors with no active participation until there is no protection in place to allow participation. It happened to a very civilized Germany, It happened in Afghanistan, it happened in the former Soviet Union, it most certainly could happen here.



    Speak up, speak loud and speak out.


  • U.S. government:

    "We must take your freedom away so that you can continue to have freedom."

    "Only violence stops violence."

    Secrecy and weapons sales corrupt democracy: " What should be the Response to Violence? [hevanet.com]
  • Are we doomed ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by q-soe (466472) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @06:57PM (#2413279) Homepage
    God help us

    The suspension of civil rights during war is ok ? what is happening here for christs sake.

    Suspension of civil rights is NEVER acceptable. Full stop. What happened a month ago can happen again today or next week or next year, all the talk of rhetoric and sabre rattling and bombing will never ever change the simple fact that one or 2 determined people who believe in their actions can get around almost any security.

    After vietnam one would think that the US would have learned this fact of life.

    Terrible things happen in this world and innocent people die - horrific acts of pain and suffering, murder, torture, rape etc.

    Allowing the government to take away ANY of your rights because in the heat of anger you think it its a goos idea is not only insane its EXACTLY how Hitler gained power in Germany with minimal real support, how Lenin took Russia etc.

    We need to be vigilant today and toomorrow and forever to ensure that the democratic process is never circumvented for any reason - we choose the government and the government should always be answerable to the public - NO EXCEPTIONS

    What do we do in years to come if we give up civil rights now and the government decides that in a state of emergency to suspend elections and habeas corpus, to declare martial law or other actions ?

    All the planes in the sky and the troops on the ground cannot prevent this sort of action happening again and throwing away civil liberties and democratic processes show those in the world who claim the US is a bully that they have a point.

    We should always ensure that the power this nation and its allies wield is applied fairly and honestly with restraint and compassion - there is no need for innocent people of ANY race to suffer in the pursuit of any group of people - and this includes the millions of innocent Afghanis who have suffered through nothing but war for almost 30 years.

    Lets not give away our freedoms, not now not ever.

  • by ainsoph (2216) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @07:31PM (#2413413) Homepage
    http://www.cnn.com/2001/US/10/10/ret.bush.media/in dex.html

    It may seem like a good point. But what seems scary to me is that the Whitehouse has been trying to control slant and news since this thing has happened. The Bill Maher thing is one example, as is the fact that it was disproven that the Whitehouse and Airforce were targets that day, even though both Cheney and Rice insisted that it was true.

    Something is up, and parnoid conspiracy theory aside, its getting pretty scary. Last night on Bill Maher, the republican strategist said that CNN was on the verge of being sued by the Gov for creating the Anthrax scare, cos they have been "right on the line of what the first amendment protects" (paraphrase, it was late). Its all too convienient if you ask me.

  • by loosenut (116184) on Wednesday October 10, 2001 @07:31PM (#2413414) Homepage Journal
    The War on Drugs [november.org] has been responsible for massive amounts of federal asset seizures [libertarianworld.com]. I can't remember if it was Bush or Reagan, but one of 'em enacted a law that gave the federal law enforcement agencies the abillity to seize your goods if they even SUSPECTED you were involved in some form of drug trade or possession, and they don't have to disclose the "evidence" that led them to believe you were guilty. This resulted in a lot of innocent people taking it in the bung.

    I see a parallel here in recent events. The government has just come up with another way to criminalize otherwise innocent people. We already have a greater percent of the population incarcerated than any nation (but, hey, it's good for the economy [prisonactivist.org]!).

    The scariest thing, to me, is that if the government spent as much time and money trying to educate us about drugs, rather then spend it on propaganda [lindesmith.org], we might not have so many lives destroyed. Similarly, if we spent as much time and money on finding a peaceful solution [indymedia.org] to the terrorist problem, instead of bombing the hell out of people and whittling away at US Citizens' civil liberties, maybe we could get somewhere.

    Meanwhile, I'm a bit scared that my political beliefs [greenpartyusa.org] will get me thrown in a jail. Please, you may not agree that we shouldn't be bombing Afghanastan, and you may not agree with my politics, but every single American is in danger of losing our freedoms. And that's what we are supposed to be fighting for in the first place, isn't it?

    Speak out! [indymedia.org]

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