Patriot Act

An Administrative Supoena For You

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.
Via beSpacific.

Fingerprinting to Use Library Computers

I don’t think I’d like to see this become a trend:

The Naperville (Ill.) Public Library board approved a $40,646 contract May 18 with a local technology firm to install fingerprint scanners on its public internet computers. The scanners, to be installed this summer, will replace the current system of requiring patrons to enter their library-card and PIN numbers to prove their identity, the Chicago Tribune reported May 20.

There are a couple of things that concern me about this. First, our fingerprints should not start showing up in multiple databases. Yea, these folks say the special encoding can not be reverse engineered but I don’t see anything that says the the fingerprint itself is not retained. And, even if it is not retained initially what are the safeguards to assure it never is retained and just how will you know?
Secondly, the linked articles talks about a law enforcement request for login records. Surely this information along with the logs detailing online activity are deleted in real or near real time. If not, then patrons should be insisting on this. The most that should be retained is the information that an unidentified patron used a computer for x minutes on such and such a day. Anything more than that should be considered a breach of privacy.
Maybe lots of folks will respond with this approach:

West said the library is requiring a fingerprint to set up computer access, although patrons who object could ask a staff member to log them on to a computer.
“I’m sure we won’t turn anybody away who refuses to use the technology, but in all honesty, it will be more cumbersome,” West said.

And the increased manpower cost will lead Naperville to return to easily used cards. If it leads them to become increasingly restrictive then, I suspect, it will simply hasten their marginalization in an increasingly digital world where the bulk of the written material created will be available to us in our living room, the local park, coffeeshop or where ever else we choose.
Via beSpacific.

Just Say No

This library gets it right:

The FBI wants to know who checked out a book from a small library about Osama Bin Laden. But the library isn’t giving out names, saying the government has no business knowing what their patrons read.
Via a puzzled Mac:
I am delighted that the library in question did fight back. But I�m still puzzled at why a margin doodler poses so much of a threat. Dude, more than half the U.S. borders and ports aren�t covered by Homeland Security and we�re out there trying to harrass people who write in library books?
Note, we would not know anything about this if the FBI had used the Patriot Act to request this information. Well, we might. But, then, whoever made it public would have been arrested and charged with illegal disclosure of information. You see, the deal is that citizens aren’t supposed to know what their government is doing.

Everything Changed?

Point 14 of the things Mark Kleiman recently learned at an Executive Session on Gang Violence opens with:

14. On the other hand, gang violence accounts for more deaths each year than were killed on 9-11. Thinking about getting ready to think about it isn’t really a satisfactory response.
Why hasn’t this changed everything?
It is pretty clear that the policies of local, state, and federal governments over the past 100 years have not fulfilled the government’s obligations to the people. Perhaps it is time to make some fundamental changes in these entities to get them refocused on serving the people’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness rather than the faction de jour.