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Congress Expands FBI Spying Power

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  • Congress Expands FBI Spying Power

    Congress Expands FBI Spying Power



    Congress approved a bill on Friday that expands the reach of the Patriot Act, reduces oversight of the FBI and intelligence agencies and, according to critics, shifts the balance of power away from the legislature and the courts.

    A provision of an intelligence spending bill will expand the power of the FBI to subpoena business documents and transactions from a broader range of businesses -- everything from libraries to travel agencies to eBay -- without first seeking approval from a judge.
    .............More at: Rest of the Article
    "Have you forgotten the face of your father?"

  • #2
    Geez, the feds need more ways to invade our privacy....

    The war on Terror is destroying our civil rights...
    "Have you forgotten the face of your father?"

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    • #3
      Who needs juries or even judges any more? They're so passe...
      "There is no great genius without some touch of madness."

      Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)

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      • #4
        This is an outrageous concept. Most terrorists are paranoid individuals who come from strict police states. They know how to beat the system. So why bother expanding powers, infringing on civil liberty, and giving the bad guys a great success.

        Then again, it could be a government plot to make terrorist feel more at home in the US. Maybe if the terrorist see police snatching up people, and locking them away just because Officer Kojak feels the need to assert his authority, they'd be less willing to attack us.
        "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

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        • #5
          And for all those buffoons who are in the "if you've got nothing to hide..." crowd, here's the first known wide scale fishing expedition by the Feds, using this atrocious extension of its Police State powers.

          Casinos, Airlines Ordered to Give FBI Information

          31 December 2003
          by Rod Smith
          Las Vegas Gaming Wire

          LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas hotel operators and airlines serving McCarran International Airport are being required by the FBI to turn over all guest and passenger names and personal information, at least during the holiday period, several sources said Tuesday.

          FBI spokesman Todd Palmer confirmed the federal action and said the requirement that the companies surrender customer information is a "normal investigative procedure."

          However, Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the Nevada Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the program "clearly is not part of a normal investigation.

          "What we seem to be witnessing at this point is a move on the part of the government to keep tabs on what everyone is doing all the time, which has serious civil liberties implications," Lichtenstein said.

          "It's one thing to have some specific security concerns and a targeted investigation with some basis in fact, but to ... try to follow everyone goes beyond what is called for."

          Hotel operators who asked not to be identified said the information being provided to federal officials includes guest and passenger names, addresses and personal identification information, but not casino records or guest gambling information.

          But Palmer said "at this point" all the bureau is getting is guest and passenger names. He also said the program was started about a week ago but the timing varied for different companies.

          He said the program was started because the Department of Homeland Security increased the national alert status, and that all cities of 50,000 or more had been told to "what was needed to make sure the cities were safe and secure."

          Palmer said the Las Vegas FBI office has not been told what other cities are affected by similar programs.

          He said the FBI in Las Vegas is receiving 100 percent cooperation from the gaming companies and airline operators.

          Hotel operators said similar information was demanded by federal authorities for about six months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C.

          Spokesmen for the casino companies said they agreed unanimously a week ago to comply with the FBI demands except for one company which insisted on receiving "national security letters" before surrendering guest records. Airlines are complying under subpoena from federal authorities.

          President Bush signed legislation earlier this month expanding the authority of the bureau and other U.S. authorities conducting counterterrorist intelligence. The law authorizes them to demand records from financial companies including casinos without seeking court approval.

          Previously, casino companies generally released such private information only under subpoena. But under the new law, they will be required to release it if national security letters are issued by federal investigators.

          The information is being transmitted electronically to the FBI on what could amount to 300,000 visitors to Las Vegas daily.

          The program of collecting information on guests and passengers was started following a meeting called by federal and state law enforcement agencies.

          Bill Thompson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas professor and casino industry expert, called the federal collection of information an invasion of privacy for Las Vegas visitors. He warned it could discourage visitors from coming to Las Vegas.

          "It creates an image like Central America, where (security) people stand around on street corners with their Uzis and it doesn't feel good," he said. "It's going to be cumbersome, bothersome and hurt tourism generally if it persists at all."

          Visitors interviewed Tuesday on the Strip were less concerned about the FBI program.

          Ronald Cohen of East Windsor, N.J., said he could see the World Trade Center site from his office, and he doesn't worry about privacy issues any more.

          "Anything they do is a good thing. I have no problems with it, "he said.

          Nathan Irby of Baltimore agreed, saying the program may be a small invasion of privacy, "but it's justified because they have to take every precaution after 9-11."

          Still another person agreed.

          "In today's world, it makes sense for the FBI to look at these lists, and they'd be crazy if they didn't do it," said Paul Van Oost of Melbourne, Australia.

          Representatives of casino operators said they would not comment on any specific security measures taken to protect their guests, but they said the safety of their guests is their top concern.

          A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, Christine Turneabe-Connelly, said FBI officials recently subpoenaed airline records for all passengers traveling into or out of Las Vegas from Dec. 22 through Jan. 4.

          She was uncertain what specific information the airlines were required to turn over to authorities. But she said her Dallas-based carrier complied with the FBI requests in an effort to protect its passengers' safety.

          Officials at America West Airlines, the airport's second-largest carrier, wouldn't comment on whether they have been asked to supply specific information about the airline's Las Vegas operations.

          But spokeswoman Janice Monahan said the Tempe, Ariz.-based airline is cooperating with federal anti-terror efforts, including fulfilling government "requests for information" as well as meeting increased security directives.

          Earlier this year, Kew Gardens, N.Y.-based JetBlue Airways drew the ire of consumer advocates and attorneys in two states after the discovery that the airline released private passenger information to an Alabama company at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense, USA Today reported in August.

          Several class-action lawsuits stemming from that action are pending, JetBlue spokesman Gareth Edmondson-Jones said Tuesday. But he said the federal government is not investigating.

          Edmondson-Jones also said he was unaware of the FBI's recent request for information regarding Las Vegas airline passengers.

          Gaming Wire writers Chris Jones and Jeff Simpson contributed to this report.
          I have no problem at all with being proved wrong. Especially when being proved wrong leaves the world a better place, than being proved right...

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          • #6
            I guess having three banches of government was too many for Bush to count. The Judicial Branch has been, bound, gagged, and cut off at the knees under Bush.
            "Have you forgotten the face of your father?"

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Tim McBride
              I guess having three banches of government was too many for Bush to count. The Judicial Branch has been, bound, gagged, and cut off at the knees under Bush.
              Funny how even such an ardent supporter of law and order as Chief Justice William Rehnquist seems to noticing the pendulum getting a bit stuck on the Fascist side of things.

              Chief Justice Attacks a Law as Infringing on Judges

              By LINDA GREENHOUSE

              Published: January 1, 2004

              ASHINGTON, Dec. 31 Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist criticized Congress in unusually pointed terms on Wednesday for a recent law that places federal judges under special scrutiny for sentences that fall short of those called for by the federal sentencing guidelines.

              The legislation, enacted last spring as a little-noticed amendment to the popular Amber Alert child protection measure, "could appear to be an unwarranted and ill-considered effort to intimidate individual judges in the performance of their judicial duties," the chief justice said in his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary.

              "It seems that the traditional interchange between the Congress and the judiciary broke down" when the amendment passed without any formal evaluation from the judiciary, he added.

              At its most recent meeting, in September, the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of 27 judges who make policy for the federal courts, voted unanimously to ask Congress to repeal the amendment. Congress has not acted on the request from the conference, which the chief justice heads, and the prospect that it will do so appears slight.

              The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, issued a statement on Wednesday defending the legislation and responding to the chief justice's criticism. Mr. Sensenbrenner said it had been necessary for Congress to act because the "growing problem of downward departures" the term for sentences that fall below the minimum produced by the guidelines had been "undermining sentencing fairness throughout the federal system."

              Mr. Sensenbrenner said Congress was aware of the judiciary's opposition when it adopted the amendment.

              "This disagreement," he said, "resulted from a policy dispute between Congress and the judiciary and did not result from any breakdown in communication between the branches or a lack of opportunity for judges to express their thoughts on this issue."

              Nonetheless, it is clear that Congress is not of one mind on the question. Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a leading Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the chief justice's criticism "extraordinary" and said he agreed that the amendment was undermining judicial independence, by creating "blacklists based on the sentencing practices of individual federal judges." Mr. Kennedy said he had introduced a bill to repeal the amendment.

              The measure at issue is known as the Feeney Amendment, for its sponsor, Representative Tom Feeney, Republican of Florida. It instructed the United States Sentencing Commission, the agency that sets the guidelines, to issue new rules to "ensure that the incidence of downward departures is substantially reduced." The commission was ordered to maintain judge-by-judge records of sentencing departures and to send the files to the attorney general, who in turn is obliged to provide the information to the Judiciary Committees of both houses.

              In one sense, given the Judicial Conference's official opposition to the Feeney Amendment, Chief Justice Rehnquist's critical remarks did little more than reflect existing judicial policy. The Judicial Conference's action itself reflected the views of many federal judges, who have become increasingly resentful of the limits mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, in addition to the guidelines that have been placed on their traditional sentencing discretion.

              But the chief justice's choice of subject for his year-end statement this was his 18th is never casual, and by making the sentencing debate the focus of the report, he was clearly trying to raise the issue's public visibility and bring it more forcefully than before to the attention of Washington policy makers. He has long been concerned about guarding judicial independence, and it was in those terms that he framed his critique of the Feeney Amendment.

              The chief justice said that "by constitutional design," judges had "an institutional commitment to the independent administration of justice and are able to see the consequences of judicial reform proposals that legislative sponsors may not be in a position to see."

              He suggested that while "judges are bound to respect" the Congressional perspective on questions of judicial administration, the respect should run in both directions.

              "Consultation with the judiciary," he said, "will improve both the process and the product."
              I have no problem at all with being proved wrong. Especially when being proved wrong leaves the world a better place, than being proved right...

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