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ACLU Sues FBI Over ISP Records 663

An anonymous reader writes "One of the provisions of the infamous USA PATRIOT Act is the ability for the government to force companies that hold personal information, specifically in this case, ISPs, to turn over their records without a court order. MSNBC is reporting about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in secret because of another provision in PATRIOT that prevents public disclosure of these matters. The gag order was dropped when the Justice Department agreed to not take any action against the ACLU."
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ACLU Sues FBI Over ISP Records

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  • And now.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ckwop ( 707653 ) * <> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:45PM (#9012862) Homepage
    USA == Land of the not so free.
    • Re:And now.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      I keep hoping it's temporary. Congress ran a bill through on fear and faux patriotism, and now we, the people, are paying for it. You have to expect that every now and then a huge, lumbering, monolothic entity like the U.S. government is going to fuck things up. That's why people challenge them.

      It's not time to panic yet. When we can't challenege them anymore (and the gag was a BIG step in that direction) or court cases like this start being lost, then we panic.

    • Re:And now.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by name773 ( 696972 )
      maybe the FSF should relocate its headquarters
  • by writertype ( 541679 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:48PM (#9012912)
    So would Slashdot turn over identifying information to the FBI et al if it was requested? What's the site's position on this?
    • by Raindance ( 680694 ) * <> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:54PM (#9012975) Homepage Journal
      It wouldn't be a question of whether Slashdot would decide to turn over requested information to the FBI or not.

      They would. I can't imagine they'd feel good about it, but anyone would in that position.

      However, the *real* question is, what data could they turn over, if requested- i.e. what do they collect, and what pre-emptive measures do they take against this FBI action (for instance, they could only keep certain data for 24 hours before deleting it... or 6 hours. Or whatever).

    • Slashdot's official position, now uncensored by the government, is:

      We at [REDACTED] the [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. [REDACTED] due to [REDACTED]. [REDACTED]. Furthermore, [REDACTED].

      Thank you,


  • by sg3000 ( 87992 ) * <> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:49PM (#9012915)
    > The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the FBI's use
    > of expanded powers to compel Internet service providers to
    > turn over information about their customers or subscribers.

    > People who receive the letters are prohibited by law from
    > disclosing to anyone that they did so. Because of this legal
    > gag order, the ACLU was forced to reach an agreement with
    > the Justice Department before a heavily edited version of the
    > lawsuit could be unsealed.

    "PATRIOT Act"? Damn you, Orwell and your Newspeak!

    So the ACLU was suing to protect Americans' privacy from the government prying into ISP customer data. But no one knew about it, since there's another law that prevents the ACLU from telling the public. So they're basically fighting for our freedoms in secret?

    It reminds me of that light from the classic show, "The Prisoner" []: "Why don't you just lock us all up and be done with it?"

    I call upon the self-proclaimed conservatives who never tire of claiming they're against "big government". Stop for a minute punctuating every sentence with "terrorism," and "support the troops; we're at war!" like some sort of right-wing Speak and Spell. Remember this on election day: Bush believes the PATRIOT Act should be renewed and celebrated []. There's your big government, pal.

    Sheesh. Someone get me a valium.
    • by TedTschopp ( 244839 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:52PM (#9012959) Homepage
      As with most real conservatives, we disagree with the sitting president.

      What a horrible choice is left to us come November.

      • by Ryvar ( 122400 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:04PM (#9013086) Homepage
        Here [].

      • by MooseByte ( 751829 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:33PM (#9013389)

        "As with most real conservatives, we disagree with the sitting president. What a horrible choice is left to us come November."

        As an independent, I'll make a deal with you real conservatives (since I'm a fiscal conservative myself) - if you help us remove Bush/Cheney/Rove this November, I'll in turn vote for whatever *intelligent* *clear-thinking* *moderate* Republican candidate you field in 2008. Better yet, dump the fundamentalist extreme right (the American Taliban) from your party and I'll KEEP voting for you.

        I'm dead serious. This admistration is a train wreck in every regard. Even current Republicans must realize the lasting damage that is being done to your own party, not to mention our standing in the world.

        A GOP government that noses its way into your private lives, delivers Big Brother to our doorsteps? Gives us insanely huge spending bills and deficits? Stumbles into a needless war? Lies, lies and lies again, baldface lies on critical issues?

        If you voted against Clinton, how can you NOT vote against Bush? Clinton got a blowjob. Under Bush WE'RE all taking it in the ass. (Now there's a clever entendre....)

        Dude, I want my country back.

      • by 2nd Post! ( 213333 ) <gundbear@ p a c b e> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:59PM (#9013652) Homepage
        What kind of conservative are you? If you're for small government and for personal liberties... are you a libertarian?

        Vote your conscience then. Vote for what is right. If everyone did that, don't you think the world would be a little better?
    • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <nacturation @ g m> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:58PM (#9013030) Journal
      Go go, George Bush: "President Bush has been pushing Congress to renew all of the Patriot Act before it expires next year, arguing that it is one of law enforcement's best tools in preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack."

      Maybe I haven't been following too closely, but wasn't all the information already there before 9/11? Come to think of it, law enforcement's best tool to prevent crime is to lock everybody in their homes... oh, wait... where's the dele
      • by FooGoo ( 98336 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:35PM (#9013405)
        You seem to be under the mistaken impression that it's law enforments job to prevent crime. They are first responders which means your already dead by the time they get there.
      • by drew ( 2081 )
        while i'm no big fan of george bush, most people seem to have forgotten that the patriot act wass passed overwhelmingly in an evenly divided house and all but unanimously (1 dissenting vote) in an evenly divided senate. so dubya is hardly the cause of our problems (at least wrt patriot). bill clinton has spoken very favorably of patriot also, and iirc tried to pass something similar after the oklahoma city bombings. apparently there wasn't quite enough public outrage after that one to push it through....
      • it is one of law enforcement's best tools in preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack.

        I call bull$hit. It's a logical fallacy they are touting there. Just because there hasn't been an attack doesn't mean there won't be one. Not needing a court order to investigate crimes is yet another way for "the law" to bypass the law.

        If my vote is effectively futile, here's hoping someone on the inside will help turn things around.
      • by Erwos ( 553607 )
        "Maybe I haven't been following too closely, but wasn't all the information already there before 9/11?"

        Yes, but the "problem" is that the FBI and the CIA are not allowed _by law_ to cross-ref their information, since the CIA cannot operate inside US borders. Ditto for the NSA.

        So, yes, we had all the right information in collective knowledge, but it wasn't being shared to put together the "ack, 9/11 tomorrow!" warning. Whether that's good or bad is up to your particular opinion, I suppose. But it's rather
    • by kevlar ( 13509 )
      Woah there, Tiger. You may believe that the Patriot Act is G.W's tyrrany and that Conservatives are "evil", but I assure you, there are very few people in Congress right now who are opposed to it, regardless of party affiliation.

      I personally am opposed and I am very conservative. I also do not believe that Bush is the greatest President either, nor Reagan, etc, but that won't stop me from voting for him in November. Why? Because John Kerry firghtens the hell out of me on so many different levels, and I
      • by MooseByte ( 751829 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:45PM (#9013519)

        "Taking on Saddam Hussein is not an easy thing to do. In fact, attacking Saddam has already knocked one President out of office and it may very well knock another out. The Bush Administration was fully aware of this when they made the decision to invade."


        First of all, Bush Sr. was immensely popular after the Gulf War. It was his utter failure on domestic policies afterward that canned him. (I served in 'Shield/'Storm and felt honored to do so.)

        The current Bush administration believed their own blowback when they made the decision to invade. I *GUARANTEE* Dubya is sitting back with a blank stare at times, muttering about how Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and others had promised him Iraqi greeting of flowers and chocolates, guaranteed reelection, a spot in history as the Great Architect of Middle East Democracy. (*gag*)

        Why else would his idiot handlers have paraded him around in front of their "Mission Accomplished" banner after his carrier landing? Even his own staff were convinced it was easy and over. And I can guarantee that photo op will be haunting him in the months ahead.

        Too bad reality refused to comply with their comic book pipe dreams.

        "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." - George W. Bush, September 2001
      • by unsinged int ( 561600 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:57PM (#9013634)
        I am convinced that if Congress re-ratified the Patriot Act, Kerry would _NOT_ veto it.

        Bush is asking for it to be made permanent, hence if Congress passes it, he will sign it.

        Kerry has said publicly that he's uncomfortable with at least some portions of the act, hence he might sign it.

        Therefore, if you oppose the act (as I do), logically you should vote for Kerry. Of course you may have other issues that trump your concern for the act, and you're entitled to those opinions, but please don't base your decision to vote for Bush on assuming Kerry would sign the act.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @09:07PM (#9014658)
        Oh my good lord.

        OK: a) Iraq had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with 9/11 or Al Qaeda.

        Osama Bin Ladin, and the vast majority of the hijackers were ***Saudis***. NOT ONE was Iraqi.

        As for WMD's, we knew damn well he had no nukes, because we would have remembered that when we SOLD HIM all his weapons.

        b) Saddam Hussein was helped into power by the same crew that just bombed him out. This is not conspiracy theory; its history.

        When Hussein gassed the Kurds in his country, we *vetoed* a UN motion to censure him, and *increased* our military support to him.

        c) Al Qaeda's biggest claim against is, is that we hate and despise all Arabs and will do anything to control their oil.

        So, what do we do? We commit an unprovoked invasion on an Arabic country that has no WMD's and no link to Al Qaeda.

        In the process, we kill about 10,000 Iraqis.

        So in the Arab mind, we have not only proven Al Qaeda right; but, figuring each one has at least one relative, we have just created at least 10,000 more potential recruits for Al Qaeda.

        d) It's convenient for us to think, that Islamic countries hate us because they're irrational.

        But the uncomfortable historical fact, is that we have been pushing them around, selecting their leaders, and invading them when they try to run their own affairs, since oil was found in the Middle East.

        Saudi, Syria, and Jordan all undemocratically oppress and even murder their people. But they have our full support. Turkey has killed more Kurds than Hussein, but don't expect us to even slow our military aid to them.

        Until we stop lying to ourselves, and realize why people hate us, we will continually be surprised.
  • Is this.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by patrick.whitlock ( 708318 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:49PM (#9012916)
    going to limit the ability of the RIAA to get the names of people downloading misic. i mean if the gov't can't do it, then why should the riaa be able to?
    • This stops them from getting the information without due process. Didn't this already happen to the RIAA? (I think, maybe it was in Canada) I don't think they can get the information without actually filing a lawsuit now.
      • Re:Is this.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by bee-yotch ( 323219 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:13PM (#9013183) Homepage
        It was the CRIA and they were actually denied getting the information from the ISP's at all because the Judge failed to see how putting MP3's in a shared folder on your computer differs from that of having a photo copier in a library surrounded by copyrighted material.

        This case doesn't really have anything to do with what happened in Canada though, because Canada doesn't have a PATRIOT act.
    • Misunderstood (Score:5, Informative)

      by ParadoxicalPostulate ( 729766 ) <> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:59PM (#9013033) Journal

      I believe that you misunderstand the situation.

      The ACLU is not challenging the FBI's ability to request ISP customer data from suspected criminals or other shady figures.

      What it is challenging is the fact that under the PATRIOT Act of 2001, the FBI can now do this "without a judge's approval."

      "The ACLU lawsuit contends that the USA Patriot Act...expanded the FBI's power to use national security letters by deleting parts of an earlier law requiring that there be some suspicion that the subject of the probe was linked to spying or terrorism."

      Thus, in the past the FBI had to go to a court and get approval before they received authorization to access all this data. Now, however, they don't need to show any reasonable suspicion. That's what the ACLU is arguing.
  • by syntap ( 242090 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:50PM (#9012924)
    Kudos to /. for recognizing that PATRIOT is an acronym... you rarely see it properly noted as such.

    Required to
    Intercept and

    or the "real" meaning...

    Americans with
    Incentive to
  • No big Change (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:50PM (#9012926) Journal
    force companies that hold personal information, specifically in this case, ISPs, to turn over their records without a court order.

    As opposed to the warerant-mill judges the FBI already have who give 'em out like candy, this just made it official, the FBI has been using the constitution for toilet paper for decades
  • Thank God for the American Civil Liberties Union. For everyone who hasn't done so yet, I recommend visiting the ACLU website [] as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation [] and donating, even if it's just a small amount. Help keep America free.
  • thank you ACLU (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SoupGuru ( 723634 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:52PM (#9012949)
    Maybe you don't agree with a lot of their suits or think they waste resources and time on foolish pursuits, but this time they hit the nail on the head. Hopefully we'll open up the little breach in the PATRIOT dam that'll grow big enough to topple it.

    And don't forget:
    "President Bush has been pushing Congress to renew all of the Patriot Act before it expires next year..."

    • Re:thank you ACLU (Score:3, Informative)

      And don't forget: "President Bush has been pushing Congress to renew all of the Patriot Act before it expires next year..."


      ...and do what? Vote out a guy that is in favor of it and vote in the guy who made it law? He voted for it. Kerry is not against the Patriot act. His only public grief with it is that Bush's appointee is utilizing it instead of his appointee.

      Head over to if you don't beleive me:

      FACT: You can sum up the problems with the Patriot Act in two words: John Ashcrof

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:52PM (#9012950)
    Amendment IV

    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 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 offense 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.

    Amendment VI

    In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

    So far, We've seen media-described breaches of all of these in the DoJ, FBI, and Military holdings in the military base in Cuba.

    Why do we still have this president again?
    • by Nevo ( 690791 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:05PM (#9013099)
      Um, the president didn't pass the PATRIOT act. The congress did.

      (Not to say that your question is totally without merit, but let's not forget who does what here.)
  • by Lurkingrue ( 521019 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:54PM (#9012973)
    And about time this is happening, too.

    I'm always amazed at Americans who consider being a "card-carrying member" of the ACLU a bad thing.

    Sure, you may not agree with some of the individuals they protect, but it is comforting to know that there is an organization that will protect the rights of anyone, irrespective of personal opinions/feelings/politics.

    The USA is supposed to be a country based on the Constitution, and was founded with the belief that every individual has natural rights that need to be protected -- against the government, against the majority, against those in power. These ACLU folks are every bit as patriotic as the folks in the armed forces doing their duty overseas that the current presidential administration loves to trumpet about. To see true patriots go up against the so-called "PATRIOT Act" warms my heart.
    • by thefirelane ( 586885 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:01PM (#9013055)
      The problem is that the ACLU selectively defends the constitution. They don't defend the rights of gun owners for one.

      This means they are really no different than anyone else. Everyone agrees they like the constitution, they just can't agree on which parts are important to protect and which aren't.

      If the ACLU would say, we want to protect everything, they would get a lot more respect from me. I support a lot of what they do now, but I think that point needs to be addressed
  • by wookyhoo ( 700289 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:54PM (#9012977) Homepage
    Does anyone else find the fact that they can't even share the details of the lawsuit with us incredibly scary?

    Whether the rest of the PATRIOT act remains or not, we should at least have the right and opportunity to free and open public debate about it.

    Hide all the details when you're looking for information, sure, but don't hide the details and criticisms of the act. That is exactly the sort of thing that we all have a right to know.
    • Absent the pre-PATRIOT safeguards, yes.

      Further, this quote from the referenced article:

      An FBI guidance document to its field offices acknowledges that the Patriot Act "greatly broadened" FBI authority to use these letters in relevant investigations. But the document says that FBI supervisors must exercise care in their use, particularly because that part of the Patriot Act is set to expire in 2005 unless renewed by Congress.

      tells me that the supervisors are being told to be nice particularly to achieve

  • good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Vlion ( 653369 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:54PM (#9012983) Journal
    I think that this is a good move.
    It is unfortunate that the P.A. even was passed.

    I spent some time studying the US constitution this semester, and although I havn't looked at the P.A., I suspect that it breaches the writ of habeus corpus in the US constitution.(Its not even in an amendment- its in the original document)

    Writ of Habeus Coprpus: A summons to a gaoler demanding that they present themselves and their prisoner to the judge, so that the gaoler can give an account of why the prisoner is being held.

    • Well, I know for a fact that there were several thousand detainees in the Tri-State area about a year ago who were being held for months without even being charged. I think that qualifies as a violation of habeas corpus.

      Then there was an additional throng who had been ordered deported two or three months previously, but who were still being held.
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <<splisken06> <at> <>> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:57PM (#9013018)
    used the Patriot Act in a number of non-terrorist cases. That the FBI would use these NSLs against anyone/everyone they want to comes as a surprise only to those who haven't been paying any attention at all.

    Since the current administration views the Presidency as answerable to no entities, domestic (judiciary, congressional, public) or foreign, they will keep attacking the Constitution as long as they are in power. And they will do this with a free conscience becasue they are incapable of even imagining that anything they do is wrong. After all, God put them in place to do it all.

    • by doormat ( 63648 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:10PM (#9013143) Homepage Journal
      Yes, in fact the "Justice" department encourages the use of the PATRIOT ACT against anyone and anything. The idea is to make it so entrenched in the way they do business, that to repeal it when the terrorist threat goes away (or at any time really) because a very big issue of public safety.

      An example of this was the G-Sting operation in Las Vegas, the feds used the PATRIOT ACT against owners of strip clubs.
      • by PatientZero ( 25929 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:45PM (#9013520)
        I looked this up as I was curious. I, like many here, believe the PATRIOT Act to be a travesty and completely misses the point. Of the many articles covering the story, one ("Berkley opposes use of Patriot Act in case") [] tells of a representative that feels the PATRIOT Act shouldn't be used in cases not involving terrorism.
        Rep. Shelley Berkley wants answers on why the federal government used laws meant to curb terrorism to pry into financial records tied to alleged political corruption in Southern Nevada.

        Another article ("Feds: Patriot [sic] Act not used in probe") [] purportedly refutes her allegations. Reading from the top, I am again reminded of why I so very much love the news industry and the DoJ.

        Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Schiess told a U.S. Magistrate that the Patriot Act was not used to collect any of the nearly 120,000 intercepted communications the FBI garnered in the course of an investigation that resulted in the indictments of Clark County Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey and former commissioners Lance Malone and Dario Herrera.

        "I'm 100 percent certain and have no doubt that the Patriot Act was not used for any of the intercepts in this case," Schiess said Monday during a status check hearing on the strip-club indictments.

        See? It was all a big misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion by tree huggers and ACLU lovers. Clearly, the DoJ is following both the letter and intent of the PATRIOT Act. I feel much better now.

        Continuing with the article...

        The FBI has said the U.S. Patriot Act was used to obtain financial information in the political corruption investigation.

        To quote Jack Valenti, un-fucking-believable. What part of "the U.S. Patriot Act was used to obtain financial information" leads to the conclusion "Patriot Act not used in probe"? Sure, it wasn't used to intercept communications. I'd also bet it wasn't used to wipe their asses either, but that doesn't mean it wasn't used for other purposes!

        Given that the average American with a thirty-second attention span reads the headline and maybe the first one or two paragraphs, they'd be left believing the DoJ's claim that it wasn't used in the probe. Period. Which is not true. No wonder people think all is well and we'd be okay if it weren't for some disgruntled Arabs on the other side of the world.

  • facism calling... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by calix ( 73098 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @05:59PM (#9013044) Homepage
    Let's disregard the whole argument "if you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about" routine. Consider for a moment that you haven't done anything wrong, but your ISP's records are requested by the FBI via an NSL. So, there goes your privacy. Maybe you cruised a pr0n site or two, maybe you shared some freely-distributable music. Does the fact that the FBI can investigate you without cause scare you? It should.

    From the other side of things, it's nice that the government can just barge right in to grab the information that's needed... but... I wonder; if the FBI can demand such information without reasonable suspicion, and without court order, what's the point? To make it faster? More secret? What is it about obtaining a warrant that takes so long that it warrants (pardon the pun) circumventing judicial approval? From what I understand (and please feel free to enlighten me), as long as there's reasonable suspicion, there should be no roadblocks to obtaining a warrant. So what's the point of this portion of PATRIOT? Looks like more government power to me.

    • You know when I was in middle school they used to always talk about "checks and balances" in the United States government.

      The PATRIOT Act is literally bypassing the need for judicial approval in order to get private information about (presumably) law abiding citizens.

      So, essentially, its undermining our pretty little system of "checks and balances."
  • Pop Quiz (Score:5, Interesting)

    by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:00PM (#9013046) Homepage Journal
    Name the country that used the following law enforcement tactics

    - Authorizes the use "Secret" Search Warrants that may be carried out without the recipients knowledge and prevent the recipient from discussing said warrant and search with anyone including legal council, which do not define the nature of the search in any means.

    - Makes it a Federal Offence to discuss any "secret action" taken by law enforcement by any knowledgeable party.

    - Where National Security reasons apply allows suspects to be secretely detained only on law enforcements "reasonable" suspicion and to be held indefinitely without any formal charge nor the ability to seek council or contact anyone to infomr them of their detainment.

    - Allows for Court proceedings to be held in secret and all records thereof to be sealed from the public.

    Select the answer from the Following List

    A) Soviet Russia (USSR)
    B) Nazi Germany
    C) United States of America
    D) All of the above

    • Re:Pop Quiz (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NixterAg ( 198468 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:09PM (#9013139)
      Name the country that, if you were a citizen of said country and made your comment, would not put you in prison (or just put a bullet through your skull):
      A) Soviet Russia (USSR)
      B) Nazi Germany
      C) United States of America
      D) All of the above

      If you didn't answer C then you are simply a reactionary fool.

      Listen, I'm all for fighting for privacy, security, and equal rights, but can we please keep the knee-jerk paranoid comparisons out of the discourse? It doesn't serve any purpose but to delegitimize you arguments in reasonable minds.
      • Re:Pop Quiz (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IthnkImParanoid ( 410494 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:43PM (#9013492)
        but can we please keep the knee-jerk paranoid comparisons out of the discourse?
        Ahh, but should we then keep the knee-jerk "USA is still really free" comparisons out of the discourse as well? Grandparent pointed out that we no longer have 4 freedoms that are arguably essential to keeping this country free, but you pointed out we still have one, so we shouldn't be worried at all? Did I understand your argument correctly?

        I don't think anyone (including grandparent) believes this country is as oppressive as the USSR or Nazi Germany, but when we are having our essential freedoms limited, perhaps we should do something before our country goes that far....
        • Re:Pop Quiz (Score:4, Insightful)

          by NixterAg ( 198468 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:56PM (#9013629)
          I think you totally missed the point. When discussing the erosion of freedoms, it's important that the line items themselves be discussed. Comparing the United States to Russia or Germany is not meant to promote the discourse, it's meant to incite anger or to play to an audience (or to get mod points from others with equally idiotic worldviews). We have to keep things in perspective. Russia and Germany killed millions to keep their leaders in power and to grab more. Here in the USA, when a new President is ELECTED to office, power will change hands with a handshake, as its been done since George Washington passed power to John Adams.

          In our world, Russia/Germany and the United States are actually on completely opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the freedoms its citizens have. The very fact that we can have this discussion without fear of governmental retribution is evidence of that.
          • by rhizome ( 115711 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @08:17PM (#9014295) Homepage Journal
            Keep in mind that the governments of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany are no longer in power. The US can't say the same, so for the posters who have been flying off the handle: of course it's not the exact same because the US isn't finished yet! Among other things, the government is trying to drum up support to make the PATRIOT Act *permanent*. Is this a good idea given the history of nationalized secrecy? THIS is the major point of the original poster, for United Statesians to keep their eyes open and realize the histories of the path that the US Government *may* be going down.

            And let's not even get into the absurdity of the Bush Administration's cynical attempts to invent exceptions to the Geneva Convention, since this thread is already in severe danger of going Bozon-nuclear.

            While the USSR and Germany were leftist movements and the US is rightist, the government's promises are the same: that the citizens will be safer and better off if they let the government do what they want. Secrecy only benefits those with the secrets.
      • Re:Pop Quiz (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Thursday April 29, 2004 @07:11PM (#9013752) Journal
        Don't kid yourself. The USA has indeed imprisoned people for speaking up and other non-crimes, and done so within living memory.

        My own grandfather was imprisoned for handing out anti-war literature at a military induction center in Atlanta during WWI, and I live in a state where in WWII, a vast number of innocent people were imprisoned for the non-crime of being Japanese Americans.

        Right now, US citizens are being imprisoned without trial on suspicion of being terrorists. I don't know if they're terrorists or not, that's why they should get a trial.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:21PM (#9013267)
      Reichstag burned
      Attack blamed on communists.
      Enabling Act is imposed giving special powers to Hitler.

      Twin Towers destroyed
      Attack blamed on terrorists.
      Patriot Act is imposed giving special powers to Bush, et al.
  • by briaydemir ( 207637 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:02PM (#9013071)

    Check out the ACLU's page [] on the challenge. There's info on the (redacted) complaint itself [], a press release [], and related cases and efforts.

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:07PM (#9013118)
    I like this part...

    "But the document says that [...] supervisors must exercise care in their use, particularly because that part of the Patriot Act is set to expire in 2005 unless renewed by Congress."

    Once upon a time, a young bull and an old bull were standing on a hill, overlooking a valley full of cows.

    The young bull said to the old bull, "Hey, old bull, let's run down into the valley and maybe we can fuck one of them cows!"

    The old bull turned to the young bull with a wizened eye and said "No. We walk down. We fuck 'em all."

    Upon hearing this, the young bull was enlightened.

  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:13PM (#9013180) Journal
    Im neither a lawyer or an american, but even i can see that this whole thing is totally unconstitutional to the point where you have to wonder: if bush came right out tomorrow and said "the bill of rights is null and void" would there be mass protest? or would there be a little poll on the cnn website?
  • Thank you ACLU (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macdaddy ( 38372 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:21PM (#9013273) Homepage Journal
    I know some folks don't like the ACLU's stance on everything (see my sig) but you've got to give them credit for doing things like this. This is why I believe we should all support their efforts. Sure they sometimes defend someone we'd frankly like to see get the needle for saying something about race or something that's pro-Nazi. Few folks understand that to defend the 1st Amendment you have to defend all violations of that amendment, even those that you yourself don't agree with. This quote comes to mind:

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
    written by Evelyn Beatrice Hall under the pseudonym S[tephen] G. Tallentyre.

    The stigma about being a card-carrying member of the ACLU is just that, a negative stigma. It's not something to be ashamed of though. Would you be ashamed of being a card-carrying member of the EFF or EPIC? There's nothing shameful about asserting your rights.

  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @06:40PM (#9013463) Homepage Journal

    OK, OK, I'm with everyone that decries the abomination and desecration of the Constitution that the "Patriot Act" is.

    Let's move on, though.

    Beneath the knee-jerk reaction is a reasonable intention: what can be done to better protect a free society from being victimized by terrorists?

    Is it not possible to craft legislation that achieves this goal in a more effective manner with less infringement of individual liberties?

    [I've been a fan of Bruce Schneier and his observation that more effective and more economical security policies, for computers and for the broader arena, are frequently overlooked.]

  • by second class skygod ( 242575 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @09:14PM (#9014705)
    is the widespread belief that a descent into true tyranny is impossible in the USA.

    When the average American hears tales of abuse of the Patriot act, he thinks of ACLU bleeding hearts protecting terrorists. At most, he might be able to conjure up government agents using personal data to catch a tax-evader or getting a list of a citizen's favorite pron sites. He concludes that this isn't so bad if it helps combat terrorism.

    We've been taught to think of America being "the land of the free" and having a superior political system to the rest of the world. Therefore, many of us have difficulty making the connection between giving the government more power to go after "bad guys" with the possibility of such powers being used to quell political dissent.

    I feel that we are firmly on a road that will lead to an dictatorship in the USA. We've given up important rights and more are sure to follow. Eventually, opposing views will be squashed to the point where only certain "approved" candidates will even be allowed to run for office (ala pre-invasion Iraq).

    -- scsg
  • by sabNetwork ( 416076 ) on Thursday April 29, 2004 @11:00PM (#9015418)

    The ISP's name was kept secret, but you may be able to deduce it from the redacted brief []

    In the following excerpts, I have made the number of asterisks proportional to the size of the censored words:

    Plaintiff ***** is an Internet access ************ business incorporated and located ***********. [Long block of censored text] sues on its own behalf and on behalf of its clients.
    ***** is an Internet access ************ business located and incorporated ** **********.
    ***** provides a number of Internet related services for its clients.
    ***** has both paying and non-paying clients.
    ***** possesses a wide array of sensitive information about its clients. With respect to any particular clients, ***** may possess [long block of censored text].
    Some of *****'s clients communicate anonymously or pseudoanonymously.
    Some of *****'s clients are individuals and political associations that engage in controversial political speech.
    Some of *****'s clients maintain accounts with ***** specifically because of *****'s commmitment to security.

    So, we can be reasonably sure that the ISP is NOT:

    • AOL
    • Earthlink
    • Google
    • RoadRunner
    • Compuserve

    It's probably a more obscure provider. Any guesses?

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