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Patriot Act 2
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Targeting Ordinary People, Not Terrorists

Patriot Act 2's laundry list of new powers will not only erode certain fundamental rights of terrorism suspects or other criminal defendants, but also contains powers which could be directed at ordinary people, such as protestors with diverse political viewpoints, members of community, environmental and religious organizations, library users and ordinary immigrants, including legal permanent residents.

When Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), it intended those extraordinary powers to be used against the Mafia and organized crime.  Over the years, however, RICO was used far more broadly, even against anti-abortion protesters and other dissidents.[11]  The ACLU is deeply concerned that some of the powers the government may be seeking in Patriot Act 2, while ostensibly directed at terrorists, could likewise be used in unexpected ways. 

Protestors - Right and Left.  Under an existing, overbroad definition of international and domestic "terrorism," any individual or group that breaks the law with the intent of influencing the government can be labeled a terrorist if their activities are "dangerous to human life."[12]  Under that definition, diverse "direct-action" organizations, including Operation Rescue, the World Trade Organization protestors, and others could conceivably be labeled "terrorist organizations."  

Patriot Act 2 not only fails to fix this definition, it exacerbates these problems by hinging even more anti-terrorism powers to this definition.  These include new wiretapping authority (secs. 120, 121), civil asset forfeiture powers (sec. 427, 428), new death penalties (sec. 411), and a frightening and unprecedented power for the government to revoke American citizenship even of native-born Americans (sec. 501).  

Under these new powers, an overzealous Attorney General in an Administration that favored abortion rights could label a pro-life organization that engaged in "direct action" as a domestic terrorist group.  As a consequence, the government could wiretap their meetings, seize their property, and strip their supporters of United States citizenship, rendering them in the same position as stateless undocumented immigrants who face potentially indefinite detention.[13]

Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Other Religious and Community Groups.  Religious and secular organizations that take controversial positions on issues like war and peace, abortion, or casino gambling could face infiltration and monitoring by local and state police departments acting in concert with unsympathetic government officials.

Patriot Act 2 would immediately terminate court-ordered limits on political spying by local and state police, freeing them to re-activate intelligence gathering squads that can investigate organizations without any evidence of a connection to terrorism or other criminal activity (sec. 312).

The Domestic Security Enhancement Act (also called "Patriot Act 2"):

  • Further dismantles court review of surveillance, such as by terminating court-approved limits on police spying on religious and political activity (sec. 312), allowing the government to obtain credit records and library records secretly and without judicial oversight (secs. 126, 128, 129), and by allowing wiretaps without a court order for up to 15 days following a terrorist attack (sec. 103); 
  • Allows government to operate in secret by authorizing secret arrests (sec. 201), and imposing severe restrictions on the release of information about the hazards to the community posed by chemical and other plants (sec. 202); 
  • Further expands the reach of an already overbroad definition of terrorism so that organizations engaged in civil disobedience are at risk of government wiretapping (secs. 120, 121) asset seizure (secs. 428, 428), and their supporters could even risk losing their citizenship (sec. 501); 
  • Gives foreign dictatorships the power to seek searches and seizures in the United States (sec. 321), and to extradite American citizens to face trial in foreign courts (sec. 322), even if the United States Senate has not approved a treaty with that government; and 
  • Unfairly targets immigrants under the pretext of fighting terrorism by stripping even lawful immigrants of the right to a fair deportation hearing and stripping the federal courts of their power to correct unlawful actions by the immigration authorities (secs. 503, 504).

 

Definition of a terrorist... are you one?

SEC. 802. DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC TERRORISM.

    (a) DOMESTIC TERRORISM DEFINED- Section 2331 of title 18, United States Code, is amended--

      (1) in paragraph (1)(B)(iii), by striking `by assassination or kidnapping' and inserting `by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping';

      (2) in paragraph (3), by striking `and';

      (3) in paragraph (4), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and'; and

      (4) by adding at the end the following:

      `(5) the term `domestic terrorism' means activities that--

        `(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

        `(B) appear to be intended--

          `(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

          `(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

          `(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

        `(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.'.

    (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Section 3077(1) of title 18, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

      `(1) `act of terrorism' means an act of domestic or international terrorism as defined in section 2331;'.