Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Homeland "Security" Questions

The sweeping measures of the Homeland Security Act have had a profound effect on how far government intelligence, "security" and military personnel can intrude into the average citizen's life. Since 9/11, we have witnessed a significant abridgement of civil rights, and denials of civil liberties. We have watched the expansion of search and seizure without either warrant or probable cause. The government has been allowed to search through everything from our homes, and email accounts, to our library-reading lists in the search for terrorists. Has this made us safer?

Probably not. If they checked out my house, the government would have discovered what my mother always told me. I am a slob. If they bothered to snoop through my email, they would discover I get an enormous amount of spam, including a lot of ads to enhance body parts I don't have. My reading list might be more fun. Mystery writers read things that could raise an eyebrow or two in government agencies. Learning all that would take a lot of time and overall be a giant waste of money that could better be used to...say, refund the COPS program that put more officers on the street in places that needed them? Wouldn't our homes be more secure with adequate numbers of well-equipped first responders?

My wife and I were in route to Florida last fall and ended up spending three days in Cleveland (don't ask - it is a long and dull story). How does homeland security play into this? When we were finally allowed to leave, we discovered we were considered potential terrorists because we were taking off from an airport outside our home state. I don't mind the vigilance at the airports, or having my luggage searched. I don't even mind taking off my shoes. The other passengers might have had to hold their noses - my stinky feet were probably the most toxic thing we had with us. Thankfully, the enhanced security exposed them.

Maybe you think I am not taking the threat of terror seriously enough. Not so. I think it is very serious that our chemical plants are still unprotected. All talk of protecting them died away after Karl Rove paid a visit to the White House. I think it is deadly serious that the government refuses to allocate funds for protecting nuclear plants. It stinks much worse than my feet that our ports and borders are not equally protected. I have to hold my nose when I think of the six locations in "landlocked" Arkansas that have received funding intended to protect ports. Would that have anything to do with a former chief of border security running for governor there?

Then, there is the issue of the District of Columbia having to foot the bill for the president's inauguration. Some people have suggested that this was punishment for the amazing majority of residents who voted for Kerry. Others argue that this is the sort of event what DC should expect to host. Did I mention that the money for the inauguration was taken out of the Homeland Security funds the city had just received? It doesn't look like our president or legislators really believe there is any true danger; after all, wouldn't you be worried about the city you work and live in if you were Congress, the Pentagon, or the President? It's not like DC wasn't attacked by the terrorists.

It is time we all looked a little closer at what it really means to have a secure homeland. It is not living in a police state, nor is it complaining every time we have to go through reasonable security at airports, ports, and border crossings. We must get serious about where the danger lies and how we can protect against it without losing the freedoms we are trying to protect. We do not want to move back into the internment camps of WWII or the big brotherism of Orwell's novels. Giving up liberty for safety is not an acceptable solution. We need to ask the hard questions, and insist upon better answers than we are currently getting.

Gwen

5 Comments:

Anonymous JB said...

"We have watched the expansion of search and seizure without either warrant or probable cause."

Wrong. The provisions of the Patriot Act relating to search and seizures all require a court order

Prove that statement.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous JB said...

still waiting for one example of a search and seizure without a warrant or probably cause.......

9:23 AM  
Blogger Gwen Mayo said...

OK JB, even though you have thrown down the gauntlet without bothering to introduce yourself I will answer your challenge.

First, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has a much lower standard of what constitutes probable cause than would have been required by the criminal courts. This amounts to an automatic expansion of search and seizure.

Furthermore, sections 103 and 104 of the Patriot Act allows the government, under certain circumstances, to bypass the court and do warrantless searches and wiretaps.

If you read through section 106 it allows agents to conduct illegal surveillance without a court order by shielding prosecution if they are following orders from high executive branch officials. I don't know about you, but I don't believe that we can expect agents to stick to the law without deterrents to committing illegal acts.

Looking at sections 128 and 129 you can see that agents have increased ability to obtain information without a subpoena by issuing an administrative order and new penalties have been placed on those who do not comply with a request for information.

I will stand by what I said. The Patriot Act has expanded search and seizure by government agents without warrant or probable cause.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous JB said...

Thank you for your response.

I just re-read the text of the Patriot Act, with emphasis on the sections you point out.

Perhaps I am a fool and looking in the wrong place, or perhaps I am looking for something that doest exists.

Favor: could you please post a link or the text of the clauses you mentioned.Thanks,

JB

5:39 PM  
Blogger Sarah G said...

OK, one link to the overall text:
http://news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/terrorism/hr3162.pdf

Another link:
http://www.aclu.org/Files/OpenFile.cfm?id=12250

Not sure about the sections cited in the earlier post, but section 215 appears to be the biggest bone of contention. While it states that US citizens cannot be investigated merely for First Amendment activities, it does give the government a lot of latitude in procuring documents without proof of criminal activity.

Section 216 gives the government the authority to perform certain types of wiretaps without needing to do anything more than affirm to the court that it is part of a legit investigation (details not needed).

Studies ongoing...

Sarah G

2:23 PM  

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