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Homework: Read and Reflect On S. 1686, the JUSTICE Act

Homework, O ye irregularities adrift in a regular world:

1. Read S. 1686 — the JUSTICE Act, a bill introduced late last week by Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. It’s such a new bill that the Library of Congress hasn’t yet processed it and posted it to its THOMAS database system: the full text of the bill is available here thanks to the amazing Electronic Frontier Foundation. It has to do with warrantless electronic surveillance via FISA, and it has to do with the FBI’s warrantless National Security Letters which are authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, up for reauthorization this fall.

2. Tell me (and one another) what you think of it.

4 thoughts on “Homework: Read and Reflect On S. 1686, the JUSTICE Act”

  1. J. Clifford says:

    So far so good, although the period of up to a year of non-disclosure seems excessive to me.

    An important background document: The Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations

    http://www.justice.gov/ag/readingroom/guidelines.pdf

    This document contains the definition of an “assessment” on page 19: “Assessments may be canied out to detect, obtain information about, or prevent or protect against federal crimes or threats to the national security or to collect foreign intelligence”.

    The “foreign intelligence” and “national security” criteria can be used to make an assessment target organizations that could be linked in some way to an original target – without any crime being involved, just the desire to get information or to develop a snitch in “matters of foreign intelligence interest”.

    The Feingold legislation doesn’t allow National Security letters to be used on assessments, just as a part of investigations, which the legislation defines as:

    (A)…conducted under guidelines approved by the Attorney General and in accordance with Executive Order 12333 (or any successor order);
    (B) shall not be conducted with respect to a United States person upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and
    (C) shall be specifically identified and recorded by an official issuing a National Security Letter under subsection (a)

  2. ReMarker says:

    This legislation is a big step in the correct direction. It seems to qualify government information gathering actions with conciderations to Constitutional guidelines, which was a much needed aspect to the current information gathering activities of government.

    The one year, J. Clifford refered to, “jumped out” at me too, but for a different reason. I wondered if the one year stipulation was wise because of the potential for longer time lines of
    “conspiracies”. I expect most conspiracies with mass destruction potential, take longer than a year. A bi-yearly, tri-yearly, or quad-yearly review of an investation may be a way to deal with the potential for investagative abuse.

    In so far as “letters of assessment” on investigations are concerned, it is good for any legislation to take into account the “agent on the street”. The “agent on the street” needs legal cover to pursue “spur of the moment” “events of interest” somehow.

  3. ReMarker says:

    Here is an article about the “sneak and peek” aspect of the Patriot Act that is being addressed by Feingold, in a Senate hearing, titled WATCH: DoJ Official Blows Cover Off PATRIOT Act

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