Thursday, December 15, 2005

ACLU’s Patriot Act Opposition Conflicts Own Agenda

-from JAY at STOP THE ACLU

ACLU: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed disappointment with the failure of the House to protect the liberty and freedom of innocent Americans when that body adopted flawed legislation to reauthorize the Patriot Act. The White House and its allies had placed enormous pressure on lawmakers to adopt the proposal that now heads to the Senate.

The ACLU noted that the conference report fails to require individualized suspicion before people’s financial, medical or library records can be gathered by the FBI, as unanimously adopted by the Senate.ACLU Website

This is nothing more than feeding unnecessary paranoia for those who live in a state of Orwellian fear. First of all, I can’t understand why people are so afraid of someone seeing their library records. If it’s a public library, it’s a public record. That includes any library that accepts public funding, which means virtually all college and high school libraries as well. There is a check and balance involved, because before someone’s records can be obtained only after being approved by a federal judge. It would be a total waste of time for the FBI to care what someone is looking at in a Library, unless some other act of theirs puts up a flag that an investigation should be warranted. The ACLU are using scare tactics, creating the fear of Big Brother invading the libraries, when in fact investigators in ordinary criminal cases have been able to gain access to library records long before 9/11. The Feds already had these tools for cases in domestic criminal activities, the Patriot Act only extends these tools to investigators to use against terrorists.

Alberto Gonzales writes in the Washinton Post

Those who voice concern that Congress is rushing to reauthorize the expiring provisions fail to recognize the oversight it has conducted. In 2005, Congress held 23 hearings focused on reauthorization and heard from more than 60 witnesses. The Justice Department was pleased to provide witnesses at 18 of those hearings, with more than 30 appearances by our experts. I testified three times, explaining the importance of the act, responding to concerns and directly addressing the act’s critics. My testimony was informed not only by the successes of the act but also by my personal meetings with representatives from groups such as the ACLU and the American Library Association. During the reauthorization discussion, I asked that certain provisions be clarified to ensure the protection of civil liberties, and Congress responded.

For example, Section 215 of the act permits the government to obtain records on an order issued by a federal judge. I agreed that the statute should allow a recipient of such an order to consult a lawyer and challenge it in court. Further, I agreed that Congress should make explicit the standard under which such orders are issued: relevance to an authorized national security investigation. In 2001 one prominent Democratic senator agreed that the “FBI has made a clear case that a relevance standard is appropriate for counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations, as well as for criminal investigations.”

The president has said that our number-one priority is preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack. Congress must act immediately and reauthorize the Patriot Act before the men and women in law enforcement lose the tools they need to keep us safe.

It isn’t suprising that the ACLU would be against this, after all we are talking about an organization that thinks Gitmo detainees have the right to remain silent when interrogated. However, for the ACLU to pretend they care about people’s privacy is a joke. The ACLU have been against the Patriot Act since it was first introduced. There have been no verified civil liberties abuses in the four years of the act’s existence. Where privacy matters are concerned, the ACLU’s record is much more tainted.

Just last year, the ACLU came under fire over privacy concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders’ commitment to privacy rights.

Some board members say the extensive data collection makes a mockery of the organization’s frequent criticism of banks, corporations and government agencies for their practice of accumulating data on people for marketing and other purposes.

Daniel S. Lowman, vice president for analytical services at Grenzebach Glier & Associates, the data firm hired by the A.C.L.U., said the software the organization is using, Prospect Explorer, combs a broad range of publicly available data to compile a file with information like an individual’s wealth, holdings in public corporations, other assets and philanthropic interests.

The issue has attracted the attention of the New York attorney general, who is looking into whether the group violated its promises to protect the privacy of its donors and members.

“It is part of the A.C.L.U.’s mandate, part of its mission, to protect consumer privacy,” said Wendy Kaminer, a writer and A.C.L.U. board member. “It goes against A.C.L.U. values to engage in data-mining on people without informing them. It’s not illegal, but it is a violation of our values. It is hypocrisy.”

The organization has been shaken by infighting since May, when the board learned that Anthony D. Romero, its executive director, had registered the A.C.L.U. for a federal charity drive that required it to certify that it would not knowingly employ people whose names were on government terrorism watch lists.

A day after The New York Times disclosed its participation in late July, the organization withdrew from the charity drive and has since filed a lawsuit with other charities to contest the watch list requirement.

The group’s new data collection practices were implemented without the board’s approval or knowledge, and were in violation of the A.C.L.U.’s privacy policy at the time, said Michael Meyers, vice president of the organization and a frequent and strident internal critic. Mr. Meyers said he learned about the new research by accident Nov. 7 in a meeting of the committee that is organizing the group’s Biennial Conference in July.

He objected to the practices, and the next day, the privacy policy on the group’s Web site was changed. “They took out all the language that would show that they were violating their own policy,” he said. “In doing so, they sanctified their procedure while still keeping it secret.”

The ACLU has no room to talk. They need to sit down and shut up. The Patriot Act is a vital tool for law enforcement to keep us safe. The Senate does not need to let this important legislation expire.

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