Keith and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) review the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, bills that claim to fight online piracy but are actually more likely to end up killing commerce and freedom of speech. Wyden, who is working on an alternative bill with a bipartisan coalition of senators and representatives, says that if these bills go much further, “they would do a lot of damage to what we believe makes the Internet so special.”
Did you know that there is a secret Patriot Act? Senator Ron Wyden says that the way you understand the way the Patriot Act is wrong. The Patriot Act is being abused in order for the government to gain more power over its citizens.
Congress is set to reauthorize three controversial provisions of the surveillance law as early as Thursday. But Wyden says that what Congress will renew is a mere fig leaf for a far broader legal interpretation of the Patriot Act that the government keeps to itself — entirely in secret. Worse, there are hints that the government uses this secret interpretation to gather what one Patriot-watcher calls a “dragnet” for massive amounts of information on private citizens; the government portrays its data-collection efforts much differently.
Senator Wyden says he is concerned about the way in which the Patriot Act is being interpreted.
That’s why Wyden and his colleague Sen. Mark Udall offered an amendment on Tuesday to the Patriot Act reauthorization.
The amendment, first reported by Marcy Wheeler, blasts the administration for “secretly reinterpret[ing] public laws and statutes.” It would compel the Attorney General to “publicly disclose the United States Government’s official interpretation of the USA Patriot Act.” And, intriguingly, it refers to “intelligence-collection authorities” embedded in the Patriot Act that the administration briefed the Senate about in February.
The FBI deferred comment on any secret interpretation of the Patriot Act to the Justice Department. The Justice Department said it wouldn’t have any comment beyond a bit of March congressional testimony from its top national security official, Todd Hinnen, who presented the type of material collected as far more individualized and specific: “driver’s license records, hotel records, car-rental records, apartment-leasing records, credit card records, and the like.”
But that’s not what Udall sees. He warned in a Tuesday statement about the government’s “unfettered” access to bulk citizen data, like “a cellphone company’s phone records.” In a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, Udall urged Congress to restrict the Patriot Act’s business-records seizures to “terrorism investigations” — something the ostensible counterterrorism measure has never required in its nearly 10-year existence.
These interpretations are based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act known as the sensitive collections program. The Department of Justice has, essentially, reinterpreted Section 215 to make it mean what they want, which is inconsistent with the law and has been abused many times in the past several years. Although the senators cannot legally explain exactly what is being reinterpreted, there is enough of a concern that they have felt the need to speak out and introduce amendments to the Act. If American citizens are not privy to how the law is being interpreted, then how can they understand exactly what the law is? If they cannot know what the law is, then how will they be able to actually follow the law as it would then be allowed to be changed at the whim of whomever is currently interpreting it?
After reading this article and the coverage from Wired, a letter needs to be sent to Congress and the President formally requesting the repeal the Patriot Act. It’s time the Bill of Rights was reinstated and followed. If more people do not speak out and protest, the careful system of checks and balances will continue to be gutted until only one branch has all the power, while the other two become relics of a bygone system of justice.