As if we needed any more proof that John Ashcroft needs to be removed from his position as Attorney General before he does irreparable damaged to the Constitution, CNET.com writer Dean McCullagh fills us in on Ashcroft’s latest legislation:
WASHINGTON—Attorney General John Ashcroft wants even more power to snoop on the Internet, spy on private conversations and install secret microphones, spyware and keystroke loggers.
Ashcroft’s Justice Department has quietly crafted a whopping 120-page proposal that represents the boldest attack yet on our electronic privacy in the name of thwarting future terrorist attacks. The nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity posted the draft legislation, which reads like J. Edgar Hoover’s wish list, on its Web site Friday.
Called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act (DSEA), the legislation has not been formally introduced in Congress, and a representative for Ashcroft indicated on Friday that it’s a work in progress. But the fact that the legislation is under consideration already, before we know the effects of its USA Patriot Act predecessor, should make us realize that the Bush administration thinks “homeland security” is the root password to the Constitution.
He goes on to list off some of the highlights of this proposed new legislation such as:
The FBI and state police would be able to eavesdrop on what Web sites you visit, what you search for with Google and with whom you chat through e-mail and instant messaging—all without a court order for up to 48 hours. That’s if you’re suspected of what would become a new offense of “activities threatening the national security interest.”
Currently police can seek a warrant to “require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communication service of the contents of an electronic communication.” Under existing law, police must notify the target of an investigation except in rare cases such as when witnesses may be intimidated or a prospective defendant might flee. DSEA allows police to delay notification for three months simply by citing “national security.”
When investigating a computer crime or other serious felonies, prosecutors would be able to serve secret subpoenas on people, ordering them to hand over evidence and testify in person. If served with a secret subpoena, you’d go to jail if you “disclosed” to anyone but your lawyer that you received it.
Police would be able to ask a judge to issue search warrants valid for anywhere in the United States if someone were suspected of computer hacking. Previously that law applied only to “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life.”
And it just gets worse from there. Word has it that this proposal has already been sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney as of last month. With an all Republican Congress the likelihood that Ashcroft will get his wish list in-full is very high. Consider that the USA Patriot Act passed the House by a 6-to-1 margin and was virtually unopposed in the Senate. Go read the rest of this article and then start writing your Congressman.
UPDATE: Solonor has a bit o’ commentary that fleshes this out a bit more over at his site. Check it out.