Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Patriot Act

So, the Patriot Act is lapsed.  Sort of.  Minimally.  "Grandfather" clauses permit investigations begun prior to June 1 to continue, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if just a little pre-dating went on while Congress is getting its act together.

It looks like the House's USAFreedom Act (I have no idea what strained title the acronym stands for) is likely to become the new law, and it is an improvement over the old law, albeit imperfect.  There will be some attempts at amendment in the Senate, but since any changes would send the bill back to the House, thereby delaying passage and "threatening our national security" for a while longer, the odds are that no amendments will be approved.  One proposed amendment I rather like would prevent the government from using evidence of crimes unrelated to terrorism from being used in criminal prosecutions.  If a non-terrorist were found, for example, to be engaged in insider trading or selling counterfeit Viagra, that evidence could be suppressed in the defendant's criminal trial.  (Even if the bill is amended, though, that particular amendment is dead in the water.)

Personally, I don't see any problem with "roving" wiretaps, with subpeonas targeting specific human beings rather than specific telephone numbers.  I also see no problem with gathering data on "lone wolves," not that any "lone wolves" (Tamerlan Tsarnaev, for example) have been tracked to date.  As far as I can tell, those so-called "lone wolves" are the only real danger at the moment, and more of them arise from the homegrown "Patriot" and "Christian Identity" movements than from Islamists.

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