Decade of Secret Tyranny
The Sovereign Investor
by Bob Bauman: On
Hitler’s Mountain: It Can Happen Here
years ago today, on Oct. 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed
into law the odious legislation known as the U.S.A.
PATRIOT Act, perhaps the single most unconstitutional enactment
by the U.S. Congress since the Alien
and Sedition Acts of 1789.
Congress, eager to be seen as doing something, overwhelmingly
passed the law only weeks after the Sept. 11, 2011 terror attacks
in New York and Washington.
In an atmosphere
of palpable fear, with haste and secrecy, in the name of the war
on terrorism, Congress adopted the Act without hearings, giving
the U.S. executive branch and its police agencies sweeping powers
that undermine both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
The Act was
passed with little debate by senators and congressmen most
of whom did not, and could not, even read the bill. When the vote
was taken no final printed copies were available.
civil libertarians and those who have suffered under this law, a
decade later, like the congressman who voted for the Act, most Americans
still know little about how drastically the Act restricts their
rights and liberties. (For a copy of my detailed expose of the PATRIOT
Act Report, click
One of the
principal reasons for this public ignorance is that the Act imposes
enforced silence on those it touches with its operations, threatening
them with fines and jail if they publicly discuss what happens to
of the Act violates the Fourth Amendment by allowing government
police to conduct searches without a warrant and without showing
any probable cause and the FBI has used Section 215 to obtain financial
and even medical records. This provision violates First Amendment
free speech by prohibiting those who are served with the orders
from disclosing that fact to others, even where there is no real
need for such secrecy.
is only a part of an alarming system of government mass surveillance
that has been erected, about which most Americans know very little.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an unnecessary conglomeration
of 22 agencies and nearly 200,000 employees, together with an out
of control FBI and CIA, engage in massive surveillance of all of
us, not just suspected terrorists or criminals.
Our phone calls,
our emails and website visits, our financial records, our travel
itineraries, and our digital images captured on powerful surveillance
cameras are adding to the mountains of data being mined for suspicious
patterns and associations.
In the last
decade, civil liberties groups have criticized the PATRIOT Act as
going too far by scooping up too much data and violating peoples
rights to privacy.
Merrill from New York may be one of the few people to fight
a request for information from the FBI that came in the form of
a national security letter. As I noted above, the Act
made it easier for authorities to demand records from Internet service
providers like Merrills company. But Merrills the only
person whos gone to court asking the right to talk about it.
Its time to have an open discussion about the direction
that our countrys going in terms of all this secrecy and justifying
everything with national security. I find it upsetting that theres
still so much secrecy surrounding these powers and their actual
use, even to this day.
of the FBI in the last decade is one long list of abused powers
and unconstitutional acts, followed by apologies and promises to
sin no more but only when they were caught.
In 2002, I
reported that the FBI quietly had been asking offshore banks and
other financial institutions to review their records for transactions
involving scores of U.S. small businesses, organizations and people,
none of whom had been charged with any crime.
2007 I wrote about a U.S. Justice Departments Inspector
General Report criticizing the FBI abuse of these national security
letters in obtaining thousands of telephone, business and financial
records without prior judicial approval.
The DOJ report
said the FBI lacked controls to assure the subpoenas were issued
properly. Although they citied the PATRIOT Act as their authority,
the DOJ found the FBI issued illegally more than 20,000 NSLs.
supposed object was to find terrorists and their cash. The use of
these national security letters marked a drastic change
in the relationship between law enforcement and the financial industry,
which used to surrender records to government agents only after
official proof of probable cause that a crime had occurred, or was
about to occur, and after a search warrant was issued by a federal
judge or magistrate.
of the Act, the so-called sneak and peek provision, lets FBI agents
search a persons home or business with a judges warrant,
but without telling the person theyre doing it.
now finding from public reports that less than 1% of these sneak
and peek searches are happening for terrorism
investigations, says Michelle Richardson, of the ACLU
Washington office. Theyre instead being used primarily
in drug cases, in immigration cases, and some fraud.
Greater Surveillance Plans
at the ACLU, says President Obama has even bigger
surveillance plans in the works now. Obamas cyber security
makes the PATRIOT Act look quaint, Richardson
says. And the collection that it would allow would outpace
anything thats being done under the PATRIOT Act.
wasnt able to talk to his family for years about the FBI request
or his lawsuit, still wonders how many other people have gone through
a similar experience. Two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon
and Mark Udall of Colorado, have demanded that the Justice Department
go public with a classified interpretation of the Act that they
say would surprise and anger the public.
time to have an open discussion about the direction that our countrys
going in terms of all this secrecy and justifying everything with
national security, Merrill says. He hopes the courts agree
with him, as do I.
with permission from The
October 28, 2011
E. Bauman is a former Member of the United States House of Representatives
from Maryland, (19731981). He is also a former federal official
and state legislator; Member, Washington, DC Bar; Graduate of the
Georgetown University Law Center (1964) and the School of Foreign
Service (1959), Washington, DC. Robert currently serves as legal
counsel for the Sovereign
© 2011 Robert E. Bauman
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