Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another Activist Decision

Once upon a time, in 2004, the FBI sent a letter to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). This letter, a National Security Letter, was, essentially a subpoena, which said that the provider had to turn over certain customer information to the Government. The letter authorized the FBI (an executive branch entity) to demand the ISP (or whomever) turn over the information that the FBI determined relevant. The NSL was used because it was preferable to a warrant, which required the Government to go through the court system and show probable cause. The letter, however, did not require the Judicial review. The letter said, in essence, that the ISP's manager was to collect the information, deliver them himself, not challenge the government's authority, and was not authorized to refuse or tell the individuals whose information was demanded by the FBI. The ISP sued on First and Fourth Amendment grounds, and the court ruled that this provision of the USA PATRIOT Act was unconstitutional, inasmuch as the letter looked like a threat and a reasonable person would not know (due to the language on the letter) that they could have a hearing to challenge it. The court was troubled by the concept of plenary executive power to determine when and what is necessary/relevant in terms of individual's information.

In response to this court's striking down of this provision in Doe v. Ashcroft, the Republican majority Congress renewed the USA PATRIOT Act in 2005, and revised said provision. The new provision was subsequently challenged, and the damn activist judge, clearly ignoring what the President insisted we have in order to effectively fight the terrorists, ruled the revised provision unconstitutional as well, because (and get this) the provision allows the Executive Branch to demand information on individuals (a search/seizure) without first procuring a warrant. This is a travesty. If the American People and the Founders were so concerned about searches and seizures by the Government, they would have required warrants in the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights - oh wait...

You see, we're supposed to support this provision, and not challenge this intrusion into our civil liberties or our Constitutional rights because we are engaged in a war against Terrorism, a non-entity, an idea, and thus we have to be extra vigilant and not ask questions when the Government asks for information on us, or on other Americans. If we've done nothing wrong, then we have nothing to fear, right?

Or, perhaps we should listen to the words of a Great President: "Once a government is committed to silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." Harry S Truman

Or, if that doesn't work for you, how about a former Supreme Court Justice: "As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness." - William O. Douglas

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