Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Patriot Act II.

As we all know (or should) the Patriot Act is up for renewal and a debate is going on between people who believe the Patriot Act to contain violations of our Constitution (namely the Bill of Rights) vs. those who do not see the same thing.

It is not so much right vs. left as many of these debates are, but the teams are more mixed up than normal.

Well, over at All Things Beautiful there is a civil debate going on about the Patriot Act and its ramifications on post 9/11 US security and our civil liberties.

A fellow named Heretik in Alexandra's comment section states:
But we do have a Constitution. And that document clearly states in the Fourth Amendment, which is still the law of the land: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

While the Fourth Amendment is quite specific in language, but people may interpret its meaning differently. The Patriot Act curiously lacks call for warrants in many instances, it lacks call for probable cause and settles for suspicion.
Source: All Things Beautiful - The Patriot Act comment by Heretik

Now my take on the Patriot Act is based on an understanding that does not come from reading the act (the bill consists of changing words in other pieces of law you may have the Patriot Act bill but you need much more than that to understand it). The biggest bugaboos seem to be centered on sneak-peak warrants and roving wire-taps. The noise about library records is just a silly example of one of the other concerns that I will not address here (or it may be all part of this).

Now, I am not certain if the opposition consists of opposition to sneak-peak searches and roving wire-taps in themselves or if the concern is about it being to easy for investigators to obtain authorization to employ such techniques.

I guess it is the later than the former (BTW here is a handy mnemonic F-Former F-First, L-Later L-Last).

One of the compromises placed into Patriot Act II is the targets of sneak and peak searches must be notified within 30 days post-search. This is silly, targets of sneak-peaks need no notification, only sufficient judicial review of the warrant request is required.

If one reads the fourth amendment there is nothing suggesting a target of a search must be notified of the search. However, there must be proper judicial review of the requests before they are allowed to proceed.

On roving wiretaps I think it silly to tap just a phone. The target are the conversations of a given individual and not conversations over a given phone. The reason why the wire-tap laws are limited to a single phone are most likely related to the difficulty of dynamically tapping lines (i.e. technology how difficult was it to set up a tap years and years ago?) and pure inertia of law.

One last thing before I leave this one to you. Heretik also states that pre-9/11 there were enough investigation tools to bust terrorist types we just have to use them. Well, I dispute that notion terrorists are thinking and adapting humans they are not mindless robots that don't plot. A football analogy is like the wide receiver who uses the back judge to screen out his cover, if the good guys don't get smart and change their tactics then the good guys are in trouble.