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.

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Comments on “Senator Russ Feingold Correctly Predicted How The Patriot Act Would Be Abused; Too Bad He Got Voted Out Of Office”

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Mr. Applegate says:

Re: American doesn't give a crap

Unfortunately, I think your right, I posted this, just a few moments ago, but I think I am going to re-post it here:

And that boys and girls is exactly how it starts. Is history no longer required in schools?

Let’s see how many other times throughout history have the people been willing to put up with violations to their civil liberties in order to ‘protect the state’. Hmmm, now let’s see where have I heard about things like this before?

Nazi Germany comes to mind. “Oh but that was not Americans, we would never go that far!” I hear you say.

So let’s look a little closer to home, you know, on American soil.

Colonial Massachusetts 1692-1693 Salem Witch Trials. “Too old!”; I hear you cry; “We are more civilized now!”, or so you say.

Well let’s jump forward 250+ years to say the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. Do you know what I am referring to?

Mcarthy’s famous ‘red’s under our beds’ campaign. Surely you learned about this in school if you aren’t old enough to have lived through it.

Now today we have the “Patriot Act” and the great fear of terrorism. Where people are stripped of privacy and secretly spied upon because they might be a terrorist. Oddly, many people say “I have nothing to hide.” At least until they have unwittingly become a target, and someone decides that childhood friend is an enemy of the state; your college dorm mate; your neighbor; the person you work with…

What do these (and other examples) have in common? They all use fear as a means to alienate people and make them turn against each other under the illusion of some ongoing conspiracy. They were all in search of an invisible enemy who caused ‘some sort of damage to society’.

Most importantly all were exploited by various powerful individuals to gain power due to the paranoia of the average person.

So go ahead sheeple, let your government leaders take you down the road to the slaughter house. Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.

Bruce says:

Re: Libertarianism isn't sounding so bad now, huh?

Yes, yes they do. They may not be wrong in this instance, but they still need a lot of work before they don’t sound so bad. There is a reason that the approval rating of our legislators is so low, we have no good leaders. Money may get you elected, but it doesn’t make you a good leader no matter what political stripe you are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ron Johnson isn't really a tea partier either

Ron Johnson may have pretended to be a tea partier to get elected, but he’s really not, he never has been. He’s just an establishment Republican who pretended to be a tea partier to win an election.

A lot of the members of the house tea party caucus are the same way. Republicans who are more scared of a primary challenge from the right because of being in such a heavily gerrymandered district then they are of the general election, in which practically anyone with an R next to their name could win.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ron Johnson isn't really a tea partier either

Here in East Texas if a democrat makes it into office somehow, before next election he changes his party affiliation to republican. That little R by their name? Stands for “Re-elected”. Especially since during presidential elections and such 65% of all votes cast are straight ticket.

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Despite warnings from a single Senator -- out of fear of those crying TERRORISTS we lose our liberties via the Patriot Act, et. al.

The Emperor: [to the Senate] In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.
[Senate fills with enormous applause]

Padm?: [to Bail Organa] So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.

Anonymous Coward says:

Feingold was one of those guys who would buck his party every once in a while. During the Clinton impeachment, he was the only Democrat in the Senate who voted to hear the trial (although of course he voted to acquit during the actual trial.) The other Senate Democrats all voted to not even hear it.

But there were PLENTY of reasons to vote him out. I heard him speak in person at my college when he was trying to get his McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill passed, and one thing really stuck out in my mind. He mentioned that he was trying to get a severability clause put in, because part of the bill was unconstitutional, and this way part of it might survive. I can’t vote for anyone who sponsors bills that they KNOW are unconstitutional. (And sure enough, the thing WAS found unconstitutional, leaving campaign finance in an even BIGGER mess.)

And one time, when asked, he said that partial-birth abortion was between a woman and her doctor even if the baby had accidentally been fully born. That’s not abortion any more, Senator, that’s murder.

On another note, I’m not sure the article title is correct. Did he really predict what would happen?

“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.”

Feingold correctly realized that it could be abused. But I don’t think even Feingold realized the extent of what they would seek. They didn’t just seek the phone records of anyone who ever had contact with a target, which would be bad enough. They sought and received the phone records of EVERYONE on an ongoing basis. No connection, however flimsy, to terrorists needed. I don’t think anybody thought they would be THAT brazen.

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