Bye-Bye Ashcroft
February 20, 2003
Patriotism Perverted: UnPatriot II (Domestic Security Enhancement Act)


Patriotism Perverted

By Dan Gillmor for the San Jose Mercury News.


The Bush administration's hostility to our fundamental liberties is unrelenting. Not content with ramming the contemptibly named ``USA Patriot Act'' through a sadly compliant Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the White House and its forces are lining up for another whack at the Bill of Rights.

Draft legislation from Attorney General John Ashcroft's law-enforcement gnomes is making the rounds. It's apparently being called the ``Domestic Security Enhancement Act,'' but think of it as ``UnPatriot II.''

Read the draft on the Center for Public Integrity's Web site. Then read the FindLaw Web site's analysis by Anita Ramasastry, an assistant law professor at the University of Washington School of Law and associate director of the Shidler Center for Law, Commerce & Technology.

The legislation, Ramasastry warns, is ``a wholesale assault on privacy, free speech and freedom of information.'' She does not exaggerate.

Here is the full text of the article in case the link goes bad:

http://weblog.siliconvalley.com/column/dangillmor/archives/000808.shtml#000808

Patriotism Perverted

posted by Dan Gillmor 01:43 PM

http://weblog.siliconvalley.com/column/dangillmor/archives/000808.shtml#000808

permanent link to this item

The Bush administration's hostility to our fundamental liberties is unrelenting. Not content with ramming the contemptibly named ``USA Patriot Act'' through a sadly compliant Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the White House and its forces are lining up for another whack at the Bill of Rights.

Draft legislation from Attorney General John Ashcroft's law-enforcement gnomes is making the rounds. It's apparently being called the ``Domestic Security Enhancement Act,'' but think of it as ``UnPatriot II.''

Read the draft on the Center for Public Integrity's Web site. Then read the FindLaw Web site's analysis by Anita Ramasastry, an assistant law professor at the University of Washington School of Law and associate director of the Shidler Center for Law, Commerce & Technology.

The legislation, Ramasastry warns, is ``a wholesale assault on privacy, free speech and freedom of information.'' She does not exaggerate.

A week ago, members of a congressional conference committee agreed to stop, at least for now, the Pentagon's ``Total Information Awareness'' program, a privacy killer that aimed to scoop up and filter every bit of available information about everyone in the hopes of finding a potential terrorist.

UnPatriot II would push ahead with this kind of Big Brother scheme. The government would collect DNA from a widening circle of Americans. It would add to government surveillance authority -- not that there's all that much keeping the official snoops out of innocent people's lives at this point in any event.

And, reviving an anti-privacy notion that Ashcroft himself once denounced -- that is, before he got a taste of the overweening state power he professed to fear -- it would criminalize some uses of encryption, the scrambling of digital information.

Government snoops, who have never, ever failed to misuse this kind of authority, would know everything about you. This is a one-way mirror. The Bush administration's fanatical devotion for secrecy, preventing citizens from knowing what government is doing in their name and with their money, would get a boost.

The most astonishing suggestion in this anti-freedom smorgasbord is what Ramasastry calls a ``Citizenship Death Penalty.''

``Suppose you, as a citizen, attended a legal protest for which one of the hosts, unbeknownst to you, is an organization the government has listed as terrorist,'' she writes. Under this legislation, ``you may be deported and deemed no longer an American citizen.''

Even more amazing, she says, ``if you are simply suspected of terrorist activity, this can occur.''

We are not living under tyranny in the United States. A few more laws like UnPatriot II, and we could be.

UPDATE: This morning's email included the usual kind words from people who agree with what I said. But I also got several notes from folks who are obviously willing to turn the U.S. into a police state in order to achieve safety. (They'll only have the illusion of safety, but never mind that.)

One writer astonished me by saying, among other things: "As for being "marked" because you "accidentally" attend a protest organized by a terrorist organization, do you not see the absurdity of your statement? Don't you think protesters should know who they're supporting, and who they're providing with aid and comfort? Don't you think you just may be marching on the wrong side of the argument, if your rally is organized and sponsored by a terrorist organization? This only confirms my contention that most protesters don't even know what they're protesting, they just come out to "party".

I hardly know where to start in responding to such stuff. Of course, "aid and comfort" is a code for "traitorous" -- why not just come out and use the word? I was astonished by the notion that this writer imagines these demonstrations are organized and sponsored by terrorists, and amazed to learn that one can be a traitor by "marching on the wrong side of the argument." I guess some Americans would be happier under the kind of regime operated, say, by a murderous thug like Saddam Hussein; at least he keeps order.

By the way, I learned of the Findlaw article because I subscribe to Dave Farber's Interesting People mail list. In this emerging world of personal journalism, Dave has become one of the editors I rely on.

Posted by Lisa at February 20, 2003 07:32 AM | TrackBack
Me A to Z (A Work In Progress)