As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Beauty Product Hunt

Marcy Wheeler notes some disturbing language in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act put in by DiFi:

I'm going to make a wildarsed guess and suggest that the Federal Government is doing a nationwide search to find out everyone who is buying large amounts of certain kinds of beauty products. And those people are likely now under investigation as potential terrorism suspects [...]

First, at the start of the hearing, DiFi claimed that the investigation of Najibullah Zazi is the largest terrorism investigation since 9/11. Whether that's hyperbole or not, she's claiming that the FBI is doing more in the wake of the Zazi arrest than it did after all those false scares stemming from Bush's illegal wiretap program, all those false scares arising out of torturing Abu Zubaydah, and all the scares hyped up around election time. She's claiming this thing is huge.

Second, DiFi and Pat Leahy went through Leahy's proposed renewal to the PATRIOT Act and made some changes--to make sure that current investigations are not hampered by any changes proposed. Significantly, she appears to have taken out this language (I haven't been able to get a hold of the substitute amendment yet) which would have required investigators to have some connection between a person and a suspected terrorist before they could collect "tangible information" on them [...] So if this investigation is as big as DiFi says it is, and if it does rely on Section 215 as currently written...

Then all they would have to do is assert that anyone buying this particular cocktail of chemicals (or products containing those chemicals) could be presumptively related to activities of a foreign power. That is, if you buy these chemicals it may be safe to assume (or the FBI might be claiming it is safe to assume) you're doing so to build an al Qaeda-related bomb.

These are the kind of fishing expeditions put together by panicked lawmakers that make people feel their civil liberties are under attack by their government. The system appeared to work in the Zazi case, but to expand that out and make anyone who buys hair care products a potential terror suspect seems completely excessive. And these kind of broad nets to capture individuals have proven ineffective, because the mass of information being searched inevitably makes it harder to find the good stuff.

It's pure paranoia, reflected in legislation. Not good.

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