Ashcroft’s DSEA will give FBI unprecedented power.

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.

  • 9 thoughts on “Ashcroft’s DSEA will give FBI unprecedented power.

    1. George Orwell may have been a little off in his timing prediction but this seems to smack of 1984!  I wondered how long it would be.

    2. I was never more afraid of losing my rights or seeing the Constitution destroyed until this administration. Welcome to East Berlin, have your papers ready.

    3. I’ve been venting non-stop on this and some other issues, as you well know, Les. John at Thudfactor has a most interesting link I’ll be posting shortly about Ramsey Clark’s efforts to move forward with impeachment proceedings.

    4. This is beyond scary.  Many people have already become victims of Ashcroft’s Big Brother legislation.  Researchers are afraid to work in the US due to fears of being arrested.  Our current political leaders are supporting taking away rights to research encryption, convert CDs to MP3s, etc.  Not to mention the monitoring that is going on as we speak.  We are soon going to be in a world like described in 1984.  What makes us different than a communist country?  People, remember this at the polls.

    5. I suggest not waiting until the next election if you really care about your freedoms. It may not seem like much but you really need to be contacting your representatives…often.

      House of Representatives
      U.S. Senate

      Wait too long and maybe the damage will be irreparable.

    6. As far as physical surveillance equipment is around there’s not much that can be done but computer surveillance is much easier to break. There’s always a way around.

    7. I’m not too worried about this inane piece of potential legislation for several reasons the first being that the federal government does not for the most part have the ability to sift through the volumes of data that would be generated by the exercise of such a law, so its effects on the general public might be minimal. A second reason is that the internet is a constantly changing landscape, the people the justice dept would be after, hackers and such, are not going to be traveling out in the open in cyberspace. A third reason is members of law enforcement, believe it or not, are Americans too and would eventually expose any wide spread abuses of the act spuring pols to abridge or scrap it. A fourth reason is the cost to effieciently implement this law would be enormous and in a time of budget crunches tangible justification in the form of societal benefit would be very difficult to prove.
      I believe overall that while these type proposals might make J. Edgar giggle from the ninth circle of hell, and that if implemented would cause grievous harm to certain of us in out great republic, overall it is a albatros that would’nt fly. But, I’m still going to email my nazi GOP rep though!

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