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"Patriot II" Reveals Secret Plans to Destroy Freedom
T.J. Newton

The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, also known as the "Patriot II" Act, initially appeared in draft form in February of 2003. The legislation was called a "secret draft," and was not officially released by the Justice Department. The draft was released to the public by the Center for Public Integrity (publicintegrity.org).

The proposed legislation contains provisions for new restrictions on freedom, increased spying capability for law enforcement that completely ignores privacy concerns, as well as provisions related to technology and privacy. In addition, the draft allows the government to expatriate American citizens that belong to groups merely suspected of a connection with "terrorism."

"Terrorism" has no agreed upon definition. The definitions used in the original USA-PATRIOT Act and the Homeland Security Act are overly broad, and could include anyone who disagrees with the administration while shopping at a mall, sitting in a bar, talking on the phone, sending an email, or making a purchase.

Perversely, the administration has ignored ongoing debate about problems with the definition for "terrorism," and the debate continues to be ignored in Patriot II. Section 301-306 effectively creates a DNA database that includes anyone labeled a "terrorist" by the administration, even if all they have done is disagree with a position the administration has taken on an issue, such as war or the environment.

Section 501 allows the government to expatriate American citizens (i.e. take away citizenship) who are suspected of being associated with a "terrorist group," even if the citizen does not state that they want to give up their citizenship. It is, of course, possible to designate whole political parties as "terrorist groups" under criteria that simply rely on the opinion of administration officials.

Section 125 attempts to reduce the oversight of the courts in matters only marginally related to terrorism, such as "computer crimes" and "attacks on communications infrastructure." Many so-called "computer crimes" aren't really crimes at all, but merely reflect the political views of some officials. The political influence in the definitions of some "computer crimes" shows up in Section 404, which attempts to remake the right to privacy into some sort of weapon. Section 404 adds additional penalties for anyone who commits a crime using computer encryption. The argument is similar to laws that increase sentences for robbery or assault with a weapon. But computer encryption is not a weapon. Citizens have a right to protect their privacy, including their online identity.

Section 202 effectively makes it impossible to research the dangers imposed on a community by private companies who work with dangerous chemicals. Because some of the information provided to communities includes a "worst case scenario" that describes the dangers companies may pose in many communities, the administration has alleged that terrorists could use such information. In most cases, facilities that would be restricted are not likely to be targeted, and facilities that are likely to be targeted could be protected in other ways. By restricting access to "worst case scenario" information, the administration is preventing communities from knowing the dangers posed by companies that potentially endanger members of the community.

Section 502 seems like a cruel attempt to bully immigrant families caught in bad situations. While the current law doesn't adequately provide a minimal cushion of understanding to families and individuals that enter the country illegally or smuggle in their friends and family, the proposed changes snatch even more hope away from people beginning a new life in America by escaping oppressive conditions.

The draft also contains small clarifications and changes in existing laws designed to fit situations described by the administration. Unfortunately, the accompanying justification for these changes offers no analysis of all of the negative consequences associated with the new wording. Particularly with respect to changes in FISA, arguments could be made against each and every change, but the authors offer no such analysis or debate, and reponse to public outcry has mostly been ignored.

The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 is a bad idea. It unnecessarily restricts freedom, increases spying and invasions of privacy, makes privacy into a weapon, targets immigrants, separates businesses and communities, and creates a DNA database that tracks the political enemies of the administration. Much of the document relies on an overly broad definition of terrorism that includes political dissenters who do nothing more than attend an anti-war rally or environmental protest. In light of these problems, the Patriot II Act leads one to the conclusion that its effects if passed will be unnecessarily detrimental to freedom and privacy.


Lewis, Charles and Adam Mayle. (2003). Center for Public Integrity. Justice Department Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act.
February 11, 2003.

United States (2003). Department of Justice. The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. http://bolles.ire.org/Story_01_020703_Doc_1.pdf, February 11, 2003.

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