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ACLU Drops Challenge Over Patriot Act 274

An anonymous reader writes, "The ACLU announced on Friday that they were dropping their case against the US Government over the highly contested section 215 of the Patriot Act. ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson stated: 'While the reauthorized Patriot Act is far from perfect, we succeeded in stemming the damage from some of the Bush administration's most reckless policies. The ACLU will continue to monitor how the government applies the broad Section 215 power and we will challenge unconstitutional demands on a case-by-case basis.'"
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ACLU Drops Challenge Over Patriot Act

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  • Re:"Reauthorized" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoTheory ( 580275 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @08:52AM (#16640675)
    Reauthorized means, passed through congress again. :P I think it's significant that congress was dumb enough to let it get by again without more of a fuss. But then, i suppose this isn't a subject that anybody could raise without getting tarred and feathered.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2006 @09:28AM (#16640851)
    Oh, you're right. The government would operate so much more efficiently if there were no descent. Let's just get rid of the judicial system and the legislature, too. They're just wastes of my hard earned dollars!
  • Re:Patriot Pieties (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoTheory ( 580275 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @09:28AM (#16640853)
    Do you have evidence that the Patriot Act actually improved anything? I don't.

    Is there any evidence that there are fewer institutional barriers to cooperation and coordination? Because if the rest of the agencies effected by the Patriot Act were reorganized like FEMA was, i don't feel very confident that the changes made to the US government are of any use at all.

    Also, there is a difference between policy consensus, and the reality of implementation. (for instance, integrating national crime databases, sounds like a great idea, but apparently this isn't an IT project the government could handle building)
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @09:44AM (#16640995) Journal
    Thanks ACLU. Thanks for increasing government expenditures and taking money out of my pocket.

    Like the Republicans who currently control the purse strings wouldn't have found a way to increase government expenditures and take money out of your pocket.

    You know, like wanting to prosecute Jose Padilla as a terrorist, holding this american citizen in jail for three years without counsel then dropping all terror related charges and finally settling on a charge of aiding terrorists in a civil, not military, court.

    Seems that the government knew its case wasn't going to fly so it settled on lesser charges and claimed victory. After spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money on legal fees on a case they couldn't win.

  • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @09:56AM (#16641101)
    IANAL, but traditionally one drops a case if one is payed off, if one is likely to lose, or if one might lose and it's a bad test case for the issue. (The last applies if you're more concerned with the system than with one or two particular clients.) In this case, might the case have been dropped because of the possibility of it raising the "right to privacy" question before the supreme court? With the current court, such a question opens the door wide on abortion--there's no explicit right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution, and Roe v. Wade depends heavily on it. This may simply be far from the ideal court (or case) with which to revisit the question of that implicit right.

    So maybe they did the math. Lose the right to privacy en masse or gain a little bit o' facism.
  • Re:Patriot Pieties (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Mainusch ( 20215 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:04AM (#16641171)
    Virtually no Americans have died in America from terrorist attacks following implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act.

    Now you might argue that this came at the cost of liberties, which I totally dispute. However, to say that the USA PATRIOT Act has accomplished nothing flies in the face of the last several years of demonstrable safety in the homeland versus terrorist attacks.

    You must remember, the USA PATRIOT Act is largely just an adaptation of the RICO Act, extending it to those involved in terrorism. There were some limitations on law enforcement which prevented them from preventing terrorism. Some of those limitations have been modified by the USA PATRIOT Act to allow law enforcement to more properly function in this arena. That we are safer from terrorism as a result is obvious.

    How much safer? Up for debate. Does it erode freedoms in the process? Up for debate. Has it made us safer? Obviously.
  • Clinton's watch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:22AM (#16641383) Journal
    After the first attack on the WTT, there were no more attacks on American soil. And that was done without the patriot act. So, by your level of proof, I guess that it "proves" that patriot act is not needed, just a pres. with a desire to prevent it.

    To state that it has made us safer is up for debate as well. There is no proof that it done its job.
  • by udderly ( 890305 ) * on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:23AM (#16641385)
    Right. What slays me is the regular folk who are so partisan in favor of one political party or the other. Give me a break! The party in power always grabs more power and the opposition tries to stop them. Why? Duh...to stay in power. When the winds of political change come, all they do they switch places.

    People may originally get into politics for noble reasons but, eventually, it becomes about "doing business." And whether they are Republicans or Democrats it makes no difference. Eventually the media-government-business complex will select from among the candidates that they can "do business" with (sorry for ending my sentence with a preposition). What, you thought that you actually had a choice? Get real.

    Like the old saw goes, power corrupts. But what gets me is these self-righteous A-holes who honestly think they they wouldn't be corrupted by it.
  • Re:Patriot Pieties (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ssstraub ( 581289 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:31AM (#16641493)
    "Has it made us safer? Obviously."

    I wore a red shirt yesterday and a green shirt today. It was colder yesterday than it is today. Therefore, wearing a green shirt makes the temperature warmer.

    How is this reasoning any different than yours? Correlation does not imply causation [tamu.edu]
  • Re:Patriot Pieties (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:33AM (#16641509)
    I haven't been attacked by tigers all my life. Clearly this is due to my tiger-repelling stone. To say that this stone has accomplished nothing flies in the face of the last twenty-one years of demonstrable safety versus tiger attacks.

    1995 -> 2001 didn't have any significant terrorist attacks either. Change to 1996-2001 if you prefer to include the Unabomber as significant during that time period, though I'd argue that you'd then need to include the November 2001 anthrax-letter attacks (insignificant as they were, they were more so than late-period Unabomber IMO).
  • Re:Patriot Pieties (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dosquatch ( 924618 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:40AM (#16641609) Journal

    Virtually no Americans have died in America from terrorist attacks following implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act.

    Virtually no Americans died in America from terrorist attacks prior to the Patriot Act, either, excepting one particular day in September. I am far more inclined to attribute the relative safety of the past 5 years to status quo than to some hastily and ill-conceived piece of legislation, but that's just me.

    That we are safer from terrorism as a result is obvious.

    This is not obvious to me. That the Act mandates better comms between the alphabet soup agencies is a Good Thing, but at what cost? How many freedoms and liberties lost or curtailed? How much indignity? How much opacity added to the process?

    I mean, do you really feel safer when Gatorade is banned from airline flights? I think the continuous fostering of unfounded paranoia does us more regular damage. After all, if the point of terrorism is to make us feel fear and thereby use it as a weapon, and that is bad, then I can see no good in the fear mongering of our own elected officials. That is the real and continuing cost of 9/11.

  • Re:Patriot Pieties (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eljas ( 911123 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:43AM (#16641643) Journal
    I have a stone that protects from tigers that I think you would like to buy...
  • Now if we can (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Krojack ( 575051 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @10:46AM (#16641683)
    succeed in stemming the damage from ACLU. I'm willing to give up some of my freedoms and rights for a while. I have no problem with it. Also the none of my civil rights have been broken. I don't know why everyone feels the government will be listening to EVERY phone call that gets made anywhere in America. Its just not possible to monitor them all. They monitor incoming international calls from certain people and outgoing international calls to certain people. They aren't listening to you talking to your grandma and could care less about that.

    Its all find and dandy that the ACLU is trying to protect my civil liberties but when they are pushing to have a cross on the side of a road where someone has died be removed or pushing to have a stone ten commandments be removed, how are these civil liberties away from anyone? Also the ACLU standing up and demanding that all prisoners of war, regardless of what they did be released if the evidence against them is not made public.

    the ACLU needs to be investigated in my opinion.
  • Re:Now if we can (Score:2, Insightful)

    by davewalthall ( 878247 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @12:03PM (#16642693)
    I would be very upset if the ACLU tried to prevent *individuals* from expressing their religious beliefs. However, I'm very much in favor of the ACLU's fight to remove *governmental* expressions of religion. The ten commandments that the ACLU fought against were not displayed in front of a (private citizen's) house, they were in front of a public courthouse. There was no "individual expression," it was a government sponsored display of religion. If the judge who erected the ten commandments had put them in front of his own house, I would have supported him.
  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @12:28PM (#16643115)
    Thanks ACLU. Thanks for increasing government expenditures and taking money out of my pocket.

    Couldn't you use this argument to discontinue the wasteful and inefficient practice of holding elections?

  • Re:Habeus Corpus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday October 30, 2006 @12:45PM (#16643361)
    It was just clarified that non-citizen enemy combatants do not enjoy that right.
    Amendment 5: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    It says "no person," not "no citizen" or "no non-combatant" or anything else. It means no person, period. That includes Osama bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, and Satan himself. In other words, your "clarification" is explicitly unconstitutional!

    Unless you want Osama to have access to an attorney?

    You betcha! What, are you afraid he'd somehow manage to win anyway? Don't you have any confidence in our laws and the ability of the US prosecution to put forth enough evidence to convict him?

  • Re:Now if we can (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Monday October 30, 2006 @12:54PM (#16643465) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that displays of crosses on the right of way of the road, which is government owned land, and the display of religious artifacts such as monuments to the ten commandments amount to an apparent endorsement, by the government, of religion, said religion almost always being Christianity. For example, I do not recall a single instance of seeing Shiva in a house of legislature, a voodoo altar at an accident site, or a monument to Ayn Rand on a courthouse lawn. When we talk about the US government's sponsorship of religion, It is Christianity first, last, and always.

    Now, if some farmer wants to put up crosses in his field, or a church wants to put up religious monuments on church property, or any private citizen wants to erect a shrine to whomever, these are all examples of free expression by the citizens and as such, they are what the constitution seems to be worded to protect. It would be very difficult, I think, to read the first amendment as anything but encouraging the citizen and discouraging the government with regard to religious expression.

    Remember the times: This country was founded by people who had been ruthlessly suppressed by the British government because the religion they followed was not that of the state. In 1789, when James Madison introduced the first tentative bill of rights, feelings were very strong that one religious sect or another must not gain religious control of the people through the mechanism of the government.

    Madison's suggestion regarding religion read as follows:

    The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

    That was whittled down to this:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

    This final version of this idea prevents the establishment of a national religion, and also prohibits government aid to any religion, even on an non-exclusive basis, or so the courts have said until very recently.

    Now, there are state constitutions that read slightly differently; however, the supreme court has interpreted the due process clause of the 14th amendment to mean that states may not override this particular section of the bill of rights (the 1st amendment is part of the bill of rights.)

    So this means that states shouldn't be putting religious symbols on road right of ways, either, nor should they be erecting monuments to any particular religion's artifacts, creeds, or personalities.

    Remember: The bill of rights assigns rights to the people. It takes them away from the government. So you can't really argue that telling the government it can't erect religious artifacts suppressed the speech of the people based on the 1st amendment. It suppresses the ability of the government to tacitly or directly sponsor religion, and that is clearly what the intent of the framers was, not to mention the authors of the bill of rights. The problem, as always, is that when a government expresses a preference for a religion, those who do not follow that religion either are, or feel they are, being marginalized. This is a situation that it is very important to avoid, specifically so that no citizen's expression of religion is likely to be curtailed by concerns about how the government might react to that expression.

    Finally, as the government's support of religion is almost exclusively Christian — crosses at the roadside, the ten commandments, Christmas displays, creches, etc. — it is clear that the current situation serves to discommode anyone who isn't a Christian. Therefore it would seem obvious, at least to me, that we have arrived at precisely the birthing of religious sponsorship the 1st amendment was designed to prevent us from getting to.


  • You know... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sir Unimaginative ( 967464 ) <sir_unimaginative@noSpAm.sbcglobal.net> on Monday October 30, 2006 @01:23PM (#16643891)
    "Its all find and dandy that the ACLU is trying to protect my civil liberties but when they are pushing to have a cross on the side of a road where someone has died be removed or pushing to have a stone ten commandments be removed, how are these civil liberties away from anyone?"

    There's something going on if you can't tell the difference between different types of public land.

    Roads are public in the COMMON sense - a cross memorialising someone who died on a particular stretch doesn't actually impose on anything besides things like "Hey, keep in mind some crap driver (maybe on something) killed a person here. Remember them, and, you know, heads up.". I would CERTAINLY remind my local ACLU chapter they have bigger fish to fry if they were going after any of these.

    Courthouses are public in the sense of PUBLIC SECTOR. As in Government. This should go without saying, but I get the sensation it bears repeating here. Putting a stone tablature of the Commandments is problematic for a reason; namely that propping them in the rotunda of your local International House of Law acts as an implicit "We (the law) enforce this in these parts" (Which someone who actually cares about freedom of religion or right of consent SHOULD take issue with, or at least with the left half and possibly #7) and at worst serves as a state endorsement of religion (While not as bad as actually erecting a state religious sect, it's ALSO covered under 1st Amendment concerns).
  • Re:"Reauthorized" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @01:36PM (#16644183)
    Reauthorized means, passed through congress again. :P I think it's significant that congress was dumb enough to let it get by again without more of a fuss. But then, i suppose this isn't a subject that anybody could raise without getting tarred and feathered.

    They weren't stupid, they were trying to hold onto their jobs. Vote against PATRIOT Act and in the next election, your opposition will campaign on it because you obviously 'are against keeping us SAFE', and in some cases 'want the terrists to WIN'.

    Remember how they got the Federal ID law passed? They tailgated it on the back end of an appropriation bill reputedly to supply body armor to the troops in Iraq. You couldn't vote against the rider without voting for the appropriation. Would YOU want to face re-election when the opposition says 'Hey, he voted AGAINST body armor for our troops!!!'?

    What really needs to happen is stopping the practice of putting riders on bills at the last minute. You can submarine all KINDS of nasty shit with the current system. Problem is, I don't see this happening. Ever.

  • Re:Habeus Corpus (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eaolson ( 153849 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @02:25PM (#16645153)
    We're in a war. We don't arrest wartime enemies and give them lawyers and court dates. We kill them.

    Who specifically are we at war with? That is to say, other than "the terrorists." Who do we have to kill or who has to surrender to end this war, bin Laden, the Taliban? The fact is, we are not at war in any meaningful sense of the word. We are at war only in the same sense that we are at war with drugs and poverty.

  • Re:"Reauthorized" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Monday October 30, 2006 @04:30PM (#16647573)
    What really needs to happen is stopping the practice of putting riders on bills at the last minute.
    Why not s/ at the last minute//?
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @02:21AM (#16654077) Homepage Journal
    As I've said elsewhere, Roe vs. Wade is a prime example of why it's a really, really bad idea to accept bad jurisprudence just because it creates a good outcome in the short term.

    Roe rests on a rather silly argument. Rather than using any number of very good justifications for enabling abortion -- such as the equal protection clause, or better yet, just tossing it back to the legislature until public pressure forced the creation of a real "Right to Privacy" amendment -- the USSC created a legal fiction. Beginning with Griswold vs Connecticut, they constructed a 'phantom right,' using what's now called the "penumbra argument." Basically they said that the right to privacy is unwritten but assumed, and that it's necessary in order for the functional implementation of other enumerated rights. It's a plausible enough argument, but certainly not airtight. Compared to the logic underlying most other high court decisions, it's got flaming hoops of assumptions to jump through. It's the Evel Knievel of opinions: on one hand there's where you are, and on the other side is the result you want, and then -- holy shit, look at it go -- it stretches between the two.

    The justices voting for the majority, being very smart and well-read people, (in my opinion) voted the way they did less because they were actually convinced of the correctness of the penumbra argument on strict jurisprudential grounds, than because they thought that to allow abortion was the Right Thing To Do at the time, and they figured out a way to make it happen. There is some merit to this approach -- public opinion at the time was in favor and if you looked at trends over the past decade or two, it looked as if society was on a straight, predictable path towards social liberalization. If the court had ruled otherwise, many would have felt that the results were unjust. (And they would be partially correct: the Court would have been just, but it would have been wrong; fixing the relationship between justice and rightness being the proper domain of the Legislature.)

    However, by acting on a results-focused, rather than principled or jurisprudential approach, the Court gave society a number of real rights -- things that average, everyday people count on, like the ability to get contraception or an abortion without consulting a judge -- but rested them on shaky, unstable foundations.

    Now, all that needs to happen for these real-world abilities to disappear, is for the jurisprudential foundation to be undermined. And now, there is little chance of a national "Right to Privacy" being passed, as there might have been if Roe or Griswold had been decided differently and there had been a public outcry of 'injustice.' It might have taken longer to get the results that people wanted, but the ultimate right would have been more secure as a result, if it had come in the form of a law or Constitutional Amendment instead of a Court opinion.

    Results-focused or social-utility "jurisprudence" is almost always a cop-out, a trading of short-term gains for long-term instability and unintended consequences. That we have begun to rely on them more and more is either a sign that the Legislative branch of government is not doing its job and forcing the Judicial to step in, or that the Judicial branch is overstepping. (Which one you think it is, is infinitely debatable.)
  • by The Cydonian ( 603441 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @08:58AM (#16656153) Homepage Journal

    Making your population afraid is old-school, and pretty much died with the Cold War. Making your population apathetic, otoh, is what all New Totalitarianism is all about.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford