Friday, September 01, 2006

Patriot's Protest the Patriot Act

Oh those New England Patriots. No, not the football team, I mean the one's who run the gift shop next to the Old North Church in Boston. Seems they are a little ticked off at the Patriot Act which nullified various parts of a slightly earlier and more righteous document--- the Bill of Rights, all in the name of that phantom called 'national security'.

Well while I was doing a shoot for a series called Deeper Connections for Zondervan this week, I paid a visit to the gift shop next to the Old North Church, but only after climbing to the top of the steeple where Sexton Newman hung the lanterns (no it was not Paul Revere who hung the lanterns) signaling one if by land and two if by sea-- the Red Coats are coming (next stop Lexington Green and Concord Green). I wanted to do my patriotic duty, and besides my founding fathers would have been pleased-- Old North Church is also a church where the Rev. Charles Wesley preached in 1736 and 1737.

Sitting there in the gift shop was a wide assortment of coffee mugs and other sorts of the usual brickabrack and trinkets. But one thing stood out-- it was the coffee mug which had the complete Bill of Rights engraved all around its outside edge--- in disappearing ink! You see, when you pour hot coffee in this cup, the various numbered rights begin to disappear from sight one by one.

Its a little parable you see-- thank's to the Patriot Act, when things get hot around here, we can watch our rights disappear one after another. So you can see now why I say-- Oh those Boston Patriots! What'll they think of next to protest infringements on their rights and freedoms? I'm thinking maybe use another potent potable in some sort of protest in Boston--- tea anyone?


Layman said...

Which aspects of the Patriot Act do you object to the most? And which of the rights in the Bill of Rights do you think are most threatened?

Sandalstraps said...

I'll have to get one of those mugs!

Ben Witherington said...

A little background is in order--The USA PATRIOT Act introduced sweeping changes to U.S. law, including amendments to:

Wiretap Statute (Title III):
Electronic Communications Privacy Act
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Family Education Rights and Privacy Act
Pen Register and Trap and Trace Statute
Money Laundering Act
Immigration and Nationality Act
Money Laundering Control Act
Bank Secrecy Act
Right to Financial Privacy Act
Fair Credit Reporting Act.

In the course of altering all these existing statutes the following things happened--

Lawyers Call for Patriot Act Oversight. A letter (pdf) from the President of the American Bar Association to Members of Congress considering Patriot Act renewal states that the ABA is "concerned that there is inadequate Congressional oversight of government investigations undertaken pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to ensure that such investigations do not violate the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution." See ABA Resolution on FISA and EPIC's FISA page for more information. (Nov. 10, 2005)

EPIC FOIA Documents Show Possible Patriot Act Abuses. Documents (pdf, 3.1 mb) obtained by EPIC under the Freedom of Information Act describe thirteen cases of possible FBI misconduct in intelligence investigations. The documents were released by the Bureau in response to an EPIC open government request (pdf) for information about the FBI's use of provisions of the PATRIOT Act. EPIC has written a letter (pdf) to the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighting the need for the Attorney General to report to Congress on potentially unlawful intelligence investigations. For more information, see EPIC's PATRIOT FOIA Litigation page. (Oct. 24, 2005)

Senate Committee Fails to Approve Expanded FBI Authority. In a closed meeting yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence did not reach consensus on legislation that would reauthorize sunsetting provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and increase the FBI's investigative powers. EPIC had urged the committee in a statement to carefully consider each sunsetting provision of the USA PATRIOT Act before voting to reauthorize, and not to expand the FBI's investigative powers unless the agency can show a need for more authority. EPIC also joined more than twenty organizations opposing an expansion of FBI authority to allow the law enforcement agency to demand records in national security investigations with no judicial approval. For more information, see EPIC's USA PATRIOT Act page. (May 27, 2005)

Here are some of the more troubling aspects of the new powers of surveillance of the government---

Pen Registers, the Internet and Carnivore
Prior to the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, the statute authorizing the use of "pen register" and "trap and trace" devices governed real time interception of "numbers dialed or otherwise transmitted on the telephone line to which such device is attached." Although the use of such devices requires a court order, it does not require a showing of probable cause. There is, in effect, no judicial discretion, as the court is required to authorize monitoring upon the mere certification by a government attorney that the "information likely to be obtained by such installation and use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation." Therefore, such procedures lack almost all of the significant privacy protections found in Title III, the statute governing the interception of the actual "content" of a communication (e.g., a phone conversation or the text of an e-mail message).

Section 216 of the Act significantly expanded law enforcement authority to use trap and trace and pen register devices. Prior law relating to the use of such devices was written to apply to the telephone industry, therefore the language of the statute referred only to the collection of "numbers dialed" on a "telephone line" and the "originating number" of a telephone call. The new legislation redefined a pen register as "a device or process which records or decodes dialing, routing, addressing, or signaling information transmitted by an instrument or facility from which a wire or electronic communication is transmitted." A trap and trace device is now "a device or process which captures the incoming electronic or other impulses which identify the originating number or other dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information reasonably likely to identify the source or a wire or electronic communication."

By expanding the nature of the information that can be captured, the new law clearly expanded pen register capacities to the Internet, covering electronic mail, Web surfing, and all other forms of electronic communications. The full impact of this expansion of coverage is difficult to assess, as the statutory definitions are vague with respect to the types of information that can be captured and are subject to broad interpretations. The fact that the provision prohibits the capture of "content" does not adequately take into account the unique nature of information captured electronically, which contains data far more revealing than phone numbers, such as URLs generated while using the Web (which often contain a great deal of information that cannot in any way be analogized to a telephone number). Although the FBI, prior to the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, compared telephone calls to Internet communications to justify invocation of the existing pen register statute to authorize the use of its controversial Carnivore system, whether the law as then written in fact granted such authority remained an open and debatable question. The amendment made by Section 216 codified the FBI's questionable interpretation of the pen register statute, thereby closing the door to fully informed and deliberate consideration of this complex issue.

When the FBI's use of Carnivore was first revealed in July 2000, there was a great deal of concern expressed by members of Congress, who stated their intent to examine the issues and draft appropriate legislation. To facilitate that process, former Attorney General Reno announced that issues surrounding Carnivore would be considered by a Justice Department review panel and that its recommendations would be made public. That promised report had not been released when Ms. Reno left office, and Attorney General Ashcroft announced that a high-level Department official would complete the review process. That review, however, was not completed prior to September 11, 2001. As a result of the delay, Congress did not have the benefit of the promised findings and recommendations when it enacted the USA PATRIOT Act. Because Carnivore provides the FBI with access to the communications of all subscribers of a monitored Internet Service Provider (and not just those of the court-designated target), it raises substantial privacy issues for millions of law-abiding American citizens.

Basically, no one is now protected from an invasion of privacy when it comes to wiretaps, their use of the Internet, their credit history and so on. All the government has to do is suggest that someone, not even an immigrant or a foreign national falls into the category of a 'lone ranger potential terrorist' and poof-- their goes their rights of various sorts. And when the right to privacy goes, what also goes with it is the right to due process, the right to be mirandized if there is an attempt at search and seizure etc. In other words--- there goes the Bill of Rights of various sorts. The Founding Fathers would have freaked out--- to put it mildly, and in case we have forgotten they were dealing with a far more imminent danger and threat-- the British Empire who, not satisfied with the outcome of the revolution, returned to sail up the Potomac and burn down the various buildings in Washington D.C.!!

Ben Witherington said...

P.S. For more info of this sort see--

Ben Witherington said...

P.P. S. That website address ends with html. Also the straight answer to you Layman is the obliteration of the Fourth Amendment rights....

Amie Lou said...

Dr. Witherington,

Thanks for all the info - you should edit your original post... I had no idea I was in for such a long ride with your "extended comment section" - but yeah, well worth it.

I'm pretty amazed but this post actually put you up another notch in my book.


p.s. I am definitely going to hunt for that mug :)

Bill Barnwell said...

Dr. Witherington,

Why do you support the terrorists? Don't you understand that these kinds of statements are just what the terrorists want to hear? Why do you continue to live in a Sept. 10th world? Don't you know that years of Middle Eastern interventions and countless wars and bloodshed have made us safe and are discouraging the terrorists? And also, why do you hate our troops? ::sarcasm off::

If anyone is interested in deifying George Bush, get your BushFish bumper sticker here:

I appreciate posts like this and wish many other fellow Evangelicals would reconsider their glorification of militarism (and indifference and contempt of Arabs in general) along with their marching lock-step in supporting any fear driven policy in the name of fighting terrorism (so long as it is promoted by a Republican). Don't get me wrong, I have no strong attachment to most Democrat ideas either and find it hard to support their politics as well, but lately the mainstream Republicans (specifically the neoconservatives) have been much more scarey in their view and handling of the world. I'm glad that there are a minority of other conservative Evangelicals who are displaying some independant thought on these matters.

Ben Witherington said...

Well Allison. may I ask how in the world you know that the Patriot Act has made you, or this country for that matter any safer? I don't see how that is the case.


C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Francis A. Schaeffer predicted decades ago that we the american people would give up our freedom in exchange for security.

Ben Witherington said...

As my former President Maxie Dunnam, most people if given a choice will take the comfort of a familiar hell, instead of the challenge and risk of living with the freedom God intended for us to have. "For if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed...."

Ben Witherington said...

Oops, I meant Maxie Dunnam said....

Ben Witherington said...

First of all the Amendment which speaks about bearing arms refers to the right to have an armed militia. This is very clear. The intent of the Amendment was not to give private citizens the right to have AKA 47s in their closet. So I think that some kind of gun control laws are well within the purview and consonant with this Amendment. Let me clear, I do think the amendment allows for private weapons of some sort. Laws saying which ones would be appropriate on a state by state basis. For example hunting rifles, or small hand guns would seem to fall within the bounds of the amendment. But if a private citizen arms himself as if he individually had the right to be a militia or a one man posse, then this goes beyond the intent of the Bill. That amounts to usurping the role of law enforcement or the military. I personally am a pacifist so I don't believe in having any guns anywhere in my house, but that is my personal choice. It is not the law of the land, and I don't believe most of the Founding Fathers would have agreed with me, but then the ones I am thinking of were mostly Deists, not Christians anyway.

opinionated said...

Ben, one of my pet peeves, and you, of all people! 's is for possessives, not plurals. Please!

Mark Baker-Wright said...

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Francis A. Schaeffer predicted decades ago that we the american people would give up our freedom in exchange for security.

Or, we could go back a little further:

"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."
---Benjamin Franklin

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Excellent post, Dr. I want one of those mugs.

Just sign me,
A Conservative (mostly) Who Finds the Patriot Act Frightening

P.S. How interesting to visit where Wesley preached. I apprciate my Weslyan roots.