Senator Russ Feingold Correctly Predicted How The Patriot Act Would Be Abused; Too Bad He Got Voted Out Of Office
from the sad dept
Before there were Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall speaking out against the Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act and secret interpretations of the law that take away our civil liberties, there was Senator Russ Feingold — the only Senator who voted against the Patriot Act at the beginning. At the time, he clearly warned what it would lead to:
One provision that troubles me a great deal is a provision that permits the government under FISA to compel the production of records from any business regarding any person, if that information is sought in connection with an investigation of terrorism or espionage.
Now we’re not talking here about travel records pertaining to a terrorist suspect, which we all can see can be highly relevant to an investigation of a terrorist plot. FISA already gives the FBI the power to get airline, train, hotel, car rental and other records of a suspect.
But under this bill, the government can compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone – perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by — the target of the investigation.
And under this new provisions all business records can be compelled, including those containing sensitive personal information like medical records from hospitals or doctors, or educational records, or records of what books someone has taken out of the library. This is an enormous expansion of authority, under a law that provides only minimal judicial supervision.
Under this provision, the government can apparently go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone. All it has to allege in order to get an order for these records from the court is that the information is sought for an investigation of international terrorism or clandestine intelligence gathering. That’s it. On that minimal showing in an ex parte application to a secret court, with no showing even that the information is relevant to the investigation, the government can lawfully compel a doctor or hospital to release medical records, or a library to release circulation records. This is a truly breathtaking expansion of police power.
That was in October of 2001. And he was right. And, since the beginning, he was the only Senator who consistently voted against the Patriot Act and various extensions and expansions. And, over the years since then he regularly warned us about secret interpretations of the law, including putting together a hearing more than five years ago on “Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government.”
Not only did people fail to take him seriously back then, they voted him out of office in the 2010 “tea party” wave. Considering how many in the Tea Party are now among those most upset about the revelations of NSA surveillance, they might regret that decision… especially since the man they replaced him with, Senator Ron Johnson voted for both the FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 and the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2012 which extended the various provisions that we now know were secretly interpreted by the FISA Court to make these surveillance programs “legal.”
Feingold is now speaking out about the NSA surveillance, and it’s already leading some to suggest he run again for public office.