The Empire Strikes Ba… Again.

February 8th, 2003  |  Published in Uncategorized

The Center for Public Integrity has a leaked copy of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (12MB, PDF), a sequel to last year’s civil liberties smash hit, the US Patriot Act.

Among its provisions:

  • Section 201, “Prohibition of Disclosure of Terrorism Investigation Detainee Information,” which reads a lot like “secret arrests and detentions.”
  • Section 202, “Distribution of “Worst Case Scenario’ Information”: Live near a factory that cranks out poisonous or dangerous chemicals? The EPA requires those companies to publish their “Worst Case Scenario” information, for if you live where it’s conceivable that a gigantic, poisonous cloud could form and kill all life in in whichever direction it gets blown. Patriot Act II is premised on the idea that this sort of information is too useful to terrorists. So you can find this information out if you live or work in the area, but no one else can. Before you sniff at the “poison cloud” scenario, consider a town I lived in as a reporter in the early ’90s. I got a call one morning to go to a factory on the edge of town. On arrival, I saw people in bio-chem suits wandering around the premises with the county sherrif standing on the edge of the property. It was an EPA drill being conducted to analyze the potential effects of an industrial fire or explosion at that plant. Analysis of wind patterns told them that upwards of 500 people living around that plant would have died in a cloud of benzene and tolulene given a worst case scenario. It seems that under the provisions of this act, I would not have been allowed to openly report that fact.
  • Section 501, “Expatriation of Terrorists”: Member of a group deemed “terrorist” by the DoJ? They can “infer your intent” to relinquish citizenship, and strip it without your initiation of the process.

Some won’t like the rest of the politics on display at the CPI’s web site. I’d encourage them to put that aside long enough to download the document in question or give a reasoned consideration of the group’s summary. It’s also worth considering TalkLeft’s scoop that the DoJ is lying about who this document has gone to, trying to downplay the fact that it slipped a copy to the White House but hasn’t solicited any congressional review.

Instapundit says “Jeez. We need this like we need ‘Dude, Where’s My Car? II.'”

I’m not a big fan of linking to people for one little quip, but InstaPundit’s out on that libertarian/right tip that accentuates the nature of opposition to this sort of legislation: it’s a case where “the vast middle ground” holding will be a disaster. The vast middle ground is a bunch of scared people willing to believe the likes of John Ashcroft when he says “if you haven’t done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” and more than willing to believe people languishing in secret prisons must have done something to get in there in the first place.

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