Congress critters continue to work on spiffing up the patriot act. They have new stuff they’d like to add:
The Patriot Act already gives government too much power to spy on ordinary Americans, but things could get far worse. Congress is considering adding a broad new investigative power, known as the administrative subpoena, that would allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation to gain access to anyone’s financial, medical, employment and even library records without approval from a judge and even without the target knowing about it. Members of Congress should block this disturbing provision from becoming law.
The Senate is at work on a bill to reauthorize parts of the Patriot Act that are scheduled to expire later this year. In addition to extending those provisions, the Senate Intelligence Committee is proposing to add an array of new “investigative tools.” The administrative subpoena is not the only one of the new provisions of the current bill that would endanger civil liberties, but it is the worst.
When the F.B.I. wants access to private records about an individual, it ordinarily needs to get the approval of a judge or a grand jury. The proposed new administrative subpoena power would allow the F.B.I. to call people in and force them to produce records on its own authority, without approval from the judicial branch. This kind of secret, compelled evidence not tied to any court is incompatible with basic American principles of justice.
Hell, it is incompatible with any meaningful concept of justice and it is difficult to understand how the writer can turn around shortly after writing the above words and say:
The bill’s defenders note that administrative subpoenas are already allowed in other kinds of investigations. But these are generally in highly regulated areas, like Medicaid billing.
Sorry, just because an area is highly regulated does not remove the concern or make administrative supoenas any less incompatible with basic principles of justice. Administrative supoenas need to be removed from the legal process.
And the patriot act itself? Eliminate the controversy and toss the the whole thing out. Then draft up a nice short piece of legislation that reauthorizes the information sharing issues that the administration is so excited about.