Category Archives: ACLU

NYC Terror Plot Demonstrates Value of the Patriot Act by Gregory Hilton

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The arrest of four men in New York earlier this week for planning to bomb synagogues and shoot down military aircraft underscores the progress the U.S. intelligence community has made. The videotapes show the four men were enthusiastic participants in this plot. It does appear that the head Imam of the Masjid Al-Ikhlas mosque and others need to explain their actions. They were aware of offers of $25,000 payments to commit terrorism and they did nothing.
“It’s hard to imagine a more chilling plot. These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews, and they are extremely violent men,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder. FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller said, “The information provided by the informant during the course of this and other investigations has proven to be accurate and reliable and has been corroborated by other evidence.” NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said “I think we should walk away from this feeling better and safer about New York than ever before.”
Many stories such as this have appeared since 9/11. Potential terrorists are now in custody because the USA Patriot Act has been successful. Because of this legislation for the first time the FBI and the CIA can work together. Various federal law enforcement agencies are now collecting and sharing information, and they have gained access to information and communications of terrorists that was not possible in the past.
Before the Patriot Act, the FBI and the CIA were prohibited from communicating. The legislation enabled the monitoring of conversations among multiple terror suspects more quickly and efficiently. It was necessary because terrorists often discontinue their phones lines or change cell phones frequently.
It gave law enforcement agencies permission to listen in on any phone being used by a terror suspect. Prior to the Patriot Act’s passage in October 2001, law enforcement could wiretap only a landline — and authorities needed to acquire separate court approvals for every phone line they tapped. The Patriot Act recognizes modern technology, and blackberries and disposable cell phones are no longer safe for them. Voicemail can be accessed through a search warrant rather than a court order.
In March of this year FBI director Robert Mueller said the Patriot Act was “exceptionally helpful.”
As recognized in the Declaration of Independence, the first responsibility of government is to preserve the lives and liberty of the people. Within the boundaries of the Constitution, the Patriot Act has been an enormous success in stopping the people who want to kill Americans on U.S. soil.
Instead of providing a single example of the Patriot Act being misused, opponents make frightening, unsubstantiated claims that the Patriot Act is a virtual roll back of the First Amendment.

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Responding to the ACLU Attacks on the Patriot Act by Gregory Hilton

The ACLU has lead the opposition to the Patriot Act since 2001.

The ACLU has lead the opposition to the Patriot Act since 2001.


The USA Patriot Act was enacted in 2001 and reauthorized in 2007. Despite the lobbying efforts of organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama Administration is not seeking the repeal of the Patriot Act nor are they requesting any major modifications.
The ACLU’s Capitol Hill champions are Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Speaking of his opposition to the Patriot Act, Senator Whitehouse says, “The privacy of American citizens is a core value in our society, I think this is our next really big civil liberties issue.”
Many of the tools the Patriot Act provides to law enforcement to fight terrorism have been used for decades to fight organized crime and drug dealers. These provisions have been reviewed and approved by the courts on numerous occasions. As then Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) explained during the floor debate about the Act, “the FBI could get a wiretap to investigate the mafia, but they could not get one to investigate terrorists. To put it bluntly, that was crazy! What’s good for the mob should be good for terrorists.”
The USA Patriot Act removed the major legal barriers that prevented the national security community from talking and coordinating their work to protect the American people. Now police officers, FBI agents, federal prosecutors and intelligence officials can uncover terrorist plots before they are completed. As former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) said about the Patriot Act, “we simply cannot prevail in the battle against terrorism if the right hand of our government has no idea what the left hand is doing.”
The USA Patriot Act was passed nearly unanimously by the Senate 98-1, and in the House of Representatives it was enacted by a huge 357-66 margin. On March 2, 2006, Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 with strong bipartisan support. The vote in the Senate was 89 to 10, and it passed the House by a 251 to 174 vote margin.
At its heart, the Patriot Act streamlines communications between varying agencies that can work together to investigate terrorist activities. It also provides for easier and less cumbersome means of investigation and surveillance. Furthermore, the Act also provides increased funding for victims of terrorist attacks and their families, as well as for the rebuilding of business and infrastructure that are damaged by terrorism.
The ACLU claims the Act permits the FBI to conduct secret searches and to “secretly record telephone conversations for the purpose of investigating crime even though the FBI does not have probable cause of crime. It authorizes unconstitutional activity – searches and wiretaps in non-emergency circumstances – for criminal activity with no showing of probable cause of crime.” The truth is that a surveillance or search can be ordered only if the court finds that there is probable cause to believe that the target is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.
The ACLU also claims wiretaps “pose a greater challenge to privacy because they are authorized secretly without a showing of probable cause of crime. This represents a broad expansion of power without building in a necessary privacy protection.” For years, law enforcement has been able to use “roving wiretaps” – in which a wiretap authorization attaches to a particular suspect, rather than a particular communications device – to investigate ordinary crimes, including drug offenses and racketeering. The authority to use roving wiretaps in drug cases has existed since 1986. The Patriot Act authorized the same techniques in national-security investigations. A number of federal courts have ruled that roving wiretaps are perfectly consistent with the Fourth Amendment.
Another outrageous claim by the ACLU is that Patriot Act “Expands terrorism laws to include ‘domestic terrorism’ which could subject political organizations to surveillance, wiretapping, harassment, and criminal action for political advocacy.” The ACLU also says the Patriot Act includes “provision that might allow the actions of peaceful groups that dissent from government policy, such as Greenpeace, to be treated as ‘domestic terrorism.'”
The truth is that the definition of “domestic terrorism” is extremely narrow. Individuals and groups would be eligible for surveillance under this definition only if they engage in criminal wrongdoing that could result in death. Law enforcement would have to show that the conduct appears to have been committed with a specified terrorist related intent.

The ACLU and Myths About the USA Patriot Act by Gregory Hilton

This full page ACLU newspaper ad aginst the Patriot Act appeared in The New York Times.

This full page ACLU newspaper ad aginst the Patriot Act appeared in The New York Times.


The USA Patriot Act was enacted in the month after 9/11, and the title of the legislation is an abbreviation for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism. Senator Barack Obama voted for renewal of the Patriot Act in 2005 but he made critical remarks about the legislation during the 2008 campaign. Many liberal activists cited Obama’s background as a Constitutional law professor. They had been expecting the new President to seek repeal of this legislation, but so far his Justice Department is complying with the Patriot Act. This has been a big disappointment for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Obama is also opposing them by continuing the Bush Administrations Military Commissions and the indefinite imprisonment of various terrorists.
The ACLU has been spreading myths about the Patriot Act since 2001. They claim that primarily because of the Patriot Act, “The Bush years were a nightmare for the shredding of the Constitution and our legal protections.” According to the ACLU “Many people are unaware that their library habits could become the target of government surveillance. In a free society, such monitoring is odious and unnecessary. . . The secrecy that surrounds section 215 leads us to a society where the ‘thought police’ can target us for what we choose to read or what Websites we visit.”
The reality is that the Patriot Act specifically protects Americans’ First Amendment rights, and terrorism investigators have no interest in the library habits of ordinary Americans. Historically, terrorists and spies have used libraries to plan and carry out activities that threaten our national security. If terrorists or spies use libraries, we should not allow them to become safe havens for their terrorist or clandestine activities. The Patriot Act ensures that business records – whether from a library or any other business – can be obtained in national security investigations with the permission of a federal judge.
Examining business records often provides the key that investigators are looking for to solve a wide range of crimes. Investigators might seek select records from hardware stores or chemical plants, for example, to find out who bought materials to make a bomb, or bank records to see who’s sending money to terrorists. Law enforcement authorities have always been able to obtain business records in criminal cases through grand jury subpoenas, and continue to do so in national security cases where appropriate. In a recent domestic terrorism case, for example, a grand jury served a subpoena on a bookseller to obtain records showing that a suspect had purchased a book giving instructions on how to build a particularly unusual detonator that had been used in several bombings. This was important evidence identifying the suspect as the bomber.
Under the Patriot Act, the government can ask a federal court (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) to order production of records through grand jury subpoenas. This federal court, however, can issue these orders only after the government demonstrates the records are sought for an authorized investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information. Congress reviews the government’s use of business records under the Act. Every six months, the Attorney General must “fully inform” Congress on how it has been implemented.
The ACLU also claims the Patriot Act “allows law enforcement agencies to delay giving notice when they conduct a search. . . . This provision marks a sea change in the way search warrants are executed in the United States.” What the ACLU does not say is that delayed notification search warrants are a long-existing, crime-fighting tool upheld by courts nationwide for decades in organized crime, drug cases and child pornography. The Patriot Act simply codified the authority law enforcement had already had for decades. This tool is a vital for detecting and incapacitating terrorists before they are able to strike.
In some cases if criminals are tipped off too early to an investigation, they might flee, destroy evidence, intimidate or kill witnesses, cut off contact with associates, or take other action to evade arrest. Therefore, federal courts in narrow circumstances long have allowed law enforcement to delay for a limited time when the subject is told that a judicially-approved search warrant has been executed. This tool can be used only with a court order, in extremely narrow circumstances when immediate notification may result in death or physical harm to an individual, flight from prosecution, evidence tampering, witness intimidation, or serious jeopardy to an investigation. The reasonable delay gives law enforcement time to identify the criminal’s associates, eliminate immediate threats to our communities, and coordinate the arrests of multiple individuals without tipping them off beforehand. In all cases, law enforcement must give notice that property has been searched or seized.
The Supreme Court has held the Fourth Amendment does not require law enforcement to give immediate notice of the execution of a search warrant. The Supreme Court emphasized “that covert entries are constitutional in some circumstances, at least if they are made pursuant to a warrant.” In fact, the Court stated that an argument to the contrary was “frivolous.” Dalia v. U.S., 441 U.S. 238 (1979)

Did the United States Torture Prisoners? by Gregory Hilton

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Today President Obama said “A democracy as resilient as ours must reject the false choice between our security and our ideals, and that is why these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past.” The President released five “torture memos” compiled during the Bush administration and he vowed never to use these techniques again. Many news reports are now claiming our nation used torture and that it was not effective.
The techniques were brutal, but they did not fall under the definition of torture and they clearly saved lives. The U.S. violated no anti-torture laws. The use of these techniques does not inflict either physical or psychological damage. As former CIA Director Hayden says, “”The (harsh) techniques themselves were used selectively against only a small number of hard-core prisoners who successfully resisted other forms of interrogation, and then only with the explicit authorization of the director of the CIA … as late as 2006 fully half of the government’s knowledge about the structure and activities of Al Qaeda came from those interrogations.” Former CIA Director George Tenet maintains, “I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than [what] the FBI, the [CIA], and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” Former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has said, “We have people walking around in this country that are alive today because this process happened.”
The most important legacy from the administration of former President George W. Bush is that the nation remained safe from attacks after September 11, 2001. The terrorist plots directed at America all failed, while they were successful in Spain, London, Indonesia and India. There appears to be little appreciation of this accomplishment while considerable sympathy is being expressed for the enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The United States has always been far more conservative than any other country or entity in our military doctrines. We don’t behead innocent people as examples. We don’t hold troops for years and subject them to beatings, torture and starvation. America does not train its children to kill, and we don’t use mentally challenged individuals as suicide bombers.
If the CIA or our military is guilty of torture those individuals should be prosecuted. However, President Obama has already told us this is not going to happen. I have read the memos and they prove to me we did not torture.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage both worked from day one on the Guantanamo situation. For example, Ambassador Pierre Prosper, the U.S. envoy for war crimes issues, was under a barrage of questions and directions almost daily from Powell or Armitage to repatriate every detainee who could be repatriated. As early as 2004, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England was calling for Guantanamo to be shut down. President Bush also said he wanted the facility closed.
Finally, the United States has been waterboarding its own special forces troops for years to prep them for being captured, and that’s mild compared to other things they are subjected too in training.