November 8, 2005 4:30 PM PST

Senator warns of Patriot Act alarmists

WASHINGTON--A Republican senator said a newly-created privacy and civil liberties watchdog panel should focus on dispelling "disinformation" about the controversial Patriot Act.

At a hearing Tuesday to consider presidential nominees to lead the group, known as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas called on the two candidates to offer "honest, responsible and fair review" of the president's counterterrorism policies. He also cautioned them to be on guard for "false reports or scare tactics."

"If anything, false claims about civil liberties violations actually make it harder to monitor real civil liberties issues in the future--for the same reason that eventually no one listened to the boy who cried 'wolf,'" Cornyn told Carol Dinkins and Alan Raul.

Enacted soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Patriot Act dramatically expanded the FBI's ability to conduct electronic eavesdropping and to obtain business records from telecommunications firms. Some elements of the law are being challenged in a New York appeals court, which is deciding whether to regulate the FBI's use of so-called national security letters to obtain information about Internet browsing, while other courts have curbed using the Patriot Act to track the location of cell phones without a warrant.

Elected to the Senate in 2002, Cornyn was not among the overwhelming congressional majority that approved the Patriot Act shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the former Texas attorney general has been a strong proponent of the law and has urged his colleagues to reauthorize it, as some portions are set to expire at the end of the year. In one statement, Cornyn said that if law enforcement had had the "flexibility" afforded by the Patriot Act before Sept. 11, "the probability of preventing the tragedy would have been much higher."

Cornyn and Sen. Kay Hutchison, another Texas Republican, were the only politicians present at the hearing, where they backed Dinkins and Raul, both lawyers, to be chairperson and vice chairperson of the five-member board. The candidate decision remains subject to the entire Senate's approval before taking office. President Bush announced the nominees in June.

Congress created the governmental board last year through legislation based on recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. The board's broad aim is to ensure that the president and the executive branch don't expand their terrorism-fighting powers to the extent that privacy and civil liberties are unduly compromised. It is supposed to advise the president and the executive branch, to review its policies, and to submit periodic reports to Congress.

Cornyn and the nominees acknowledged that it remains unclear precisely how the board will do its work or where it will start.

"It will be quite a challenge," Dinkins said, adding that her first priority, should she become chairperson, would be tending to practical matters: employing an executive director and other staff and securing office space.

Both nominees held positions in the Reagan administration: Dinkins was the Justice Department's deputy attorney general, and Raul was an associate counsel to the president. Both have said they will continue to practice law with their respective firms--Dinkins in Texas and Raul in Washington, D.C.--even if their nominations are approved.

While Dinkins' experience centers on environmental litigation, Raul has recently dealt with technology-related cases. According to a questionnaire he submitted to the Judiciary Committee, he helped draft a brief supporting the movie industry's position in MGM v. Grokster, where the Supreme Court ruled against peer-to-peer file sharing networks. He has also been involved in a number of cases involving domain name "cybersquatting" and trademark infringement.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

20 comments

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Alarmists?!
We've had a hundredfold increase in FBI security letters over historic norms, 30,000 (source: Associated Press),and John Cornyn has the nerve to make a "little boy who cried wolf" comparison to anyone who challenges it!!

These are the same people holding Guantanamo detainess and calling them, "the worst of the worse", for multiple years without charging them with a crime and then releasing them!! They hold "ghost" prisoners in secret jails and push for torture as an acceptable interrogation procedure for the CIA.

Why would John Cornyn waste his time disspelling disinformation when we have so much known information that's even more shocking!

As long as you don't go to Al-Jazeera's website, check out(or buy) questionable reading materials, go to Las Vegas or have Arab-Americans as friends you'll have no problems with this great act of patriotism.
Posted by ScullyB (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You people are victims...
... of the very disinformation being cautioned in the article.
Posted by shoffmueller (236 comments )
Link Flag
The US Police State
Those in power who have the most to gain from a police state are naturally the first to call any who object "alarmists". Any government of, by and for the people would be apalled by the terms of the US Patriot Act.
Posted by Freiheit13 (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
good advice in there
> He also cautioned them to be on guard for "false
> reports or scare tactics."

Indeed good advice, so long as it applies to all parties, not just one end of things or the other.
Posted by amigabill (93 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Welcome to Amerika
Alarmist!? How dare we question our government and the police
actions against its citizens?

I especially love how Senator Cornyn said that if law enforcement
had had the "flexibility" afforded by the Patriot Act before Sept.
11, "the probability of preventing the tragedy would have been
much higher."

TALK ABOUT DISINFORMATION!! The fact is that we had reports
that Bin Laden was planning to attack this country and did
nothing. No additional police "flexibility" would have helped.

Instead, our rights have eroded to a point where one has to
question how "free" this country really is. Today, innuendo can
put U.S. Citizens in detainment for indefinite period of time with
no recourse.

How ironic that the folks in charge have given the terrorists
everything they wanted by allowing our own government to take
away the very freedoms this country represents.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good point
I wish the senator would explain to me how allowing the government to look at the medical, phone, library, and other, records of american citizens with no warrant could have prevented 9/11.

Giving the police and FBI draconian powers against people in America wouldn't have stopped the actions of a few foreign extremists living in caves in Afghanistan.
Posted by jdbwar07 (150 comments )
Link Flag
Inappropriate name for this act!
This Act's correct name is "The Governments Right to Terrorize and abuse all citizens, the deletion of Free Speech and all associated freedoms!" Welcome to the Union of the Soviet States Of Amerika, this counrty boasts, we have the largest gulags in the world! Oh well such is life, where toadies and obsequient to rule and terrorize it's own citizens without end!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Understanding Act Names
The best way to view names of legislation given is that the
underlying act is most likely opposite in nature to its name.
Posted by m.meister (278 comments )
Link Flag
This is exactly what was feared
This is why our founders included so many of those of those pesky rights that that the esteemed senator is now trying to tell us we only imagine we are losing by degrees, so we can defend ourselves against the very intrusion into
our lives the government defends as necessary to
preserve our freedom. I think we don't have to worry about any more terrorist attacks because the last one was definitely expensive and intricate and it seems to me that it was also
meant to be a catalyst to accomplish the hamstringing of America. It is a known fact that the only country that can compromise our position
in the world is us, nobody can do anything to ruin us except us and the only ruination this country can't recover from is loss of freedom.
I forget the founding father that said "If I had
every right taken away and could only retain one
I would choose freedom of speech for with that you can recover all others" but they are strangely prophetic words given that abridgement seems to be the goal in the guise of raising awareness. Since when is honest debate of questionable legislation"alarmist"?? I fear that we have served Osama's purpose more completely than any suicide possibly could, We have turned
our Bill of Rights into suggestions and ill- received suggestions at that.
Posted by popsicle67 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The next step: Make it illegal to complain about injustice
Isn't that what this is all about, really? First, they establish some government watchdog group which is supposed to notice when the government is going too far, then, if it declares itself innocent (as if there could be any other outcome), it'll then make it so that those who claim it's doing something wrong should be arrested and imprisoned.

Yes, things are getting worse, and even some of the politicians are commenting about it. One congressman even came right out and said "We have developed a stone cold police state in America, believe me, from Waco, Ruby Ridge, to Miami, Florida," Traficant said. "Every American knows it, [but] no one is doing anything about it."

This idea of a watchdog for government isn't new by a long shot. There was once legislation in 2000 to create an agency called the "Fair Justice Agency". Notice that we don't have one? LOL

Then there's the things people think were only thought of by the government since September 11th, 2001, or 9/11 as they're calling it. They've been trying to get things passed which would allow agents of the government to snoop through your homes and take things out of your homes without having to tell you they were even there, or what they took for several years, now. The events of 9/11 and the fact that they shoved it through without letting anybody have sufficient time to read it all and called it "The USA Patriot Act" let them get away with passing such things.

Then, there's the odd bits of news articles claiming that there's things people can do about it, when there's not...

Go here: www.cyberwolfman.com/blog_2005.htm (not a real commercial site, not a single ad on it, either) and search (hit Ctrl+f in your Web browser) for the phrase "June 30th, 2005" to get to the right section. I won't repeat what it said, here, but I also linked to the article itself, so you can verify this.

There's even laws out there now that make it so that you can't remove spyware that was placed on your computer without your knowledge or consent, like the stuff Sony puts on some CDs that gets installed when you use them.

News.com article: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.cbsi.com/Why+they+say+spyware+is+good+for+you/2010-1071_3-5934150.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.cbsi.com/Why+they+say+spyware+is+good+for+you/2010-1071_3-5934150.html</a>

Mike Mixer, I collect cool quotes (www.cyberwolfman.com/quotes.htm), but I'm un-familiar with the one you spoke of. Any idea who said it? It sounds kind of like Franklin, but wanted to ask you about it.

Ian Deal: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." But, I also liked Franklin's:

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." - Dr. Benjamin Franklin, 1759

And another one of Thomas Jefferson's seems very appropriate now:

"All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."

- CyberWoLfman
Posted by CyberWoLfman (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's already can be made.
Patriot Act was introduced to fight terrorism.
That means everyone arguing against the act is helping terrorists. And who else but terroist would want to help terrorists?

Thus anyone taking on PA must be considered terrorist.
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
Link Flag
The founding fathers
The same words and concerns of the founding fathers of this country are now considered "Alarmist", "Radical", and/or Unpatriotic".

Using the same words today as the founding fathers used when this country was formed is "Reasonable Cause" for our current government to secretly monitor our activities, search our homes without a warrant, and detain people indefinitely without trial.

Now they create a commission to whitewash the fence between us and our basic freedom to replace a government that no longer does what we believe it should do or violates that basic freedom.
Posted by albrown (36 comments )
Link Flag
Privacy, Freedom, Liberty and the USA
I was raised in a rural Wisconsin area by a Libertarian leaning father. One of the first lessons I learned from him regarding the Government or really any authority was to question everything they did and to never give them the benefit of the doubt.

I feel that our government has become so large and corrupt that we have no way to question even a small percentage of what they do. The Patriot Act is a vast and over reaching reaction to a very traumatic event, 9/11.

Alarmist? I got news for you all; the wolf is in the kitchen and the sky isn't falling, its come crashing down.

I don't even feel free to do research online because of what flags may be tipped by my interests. I am an opponent to the Drug War, but I don't frequent web pages dedicated to this.

I feel very discouraged right now at the state of affairs in the USA. I feel a little bit like Will Smith in Enemy of the State. OK, without the gun play or actually being chased.

The problem goes well beyond any one piece of Legislation. I fear for my privacy, freedom, and liberty. I feel the constitution is a historical document verses a living document. Our rights have been eroded and will continue to for the foreseeable future.
Posted by echeola (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Computers and liberty
Just a thought or two that relates this site to the subject at hand.
Prior to the development of IT, being a revolutionary was relatively easy. Now, it is virtually impossible in the US to maintain a low profile if you disagree with the powers that be.
Our cooperation in the enforcement of such vile legislation as the Patriot Act underlies its success. We, by cooperating in its enforcement are for the most part government ******. Carnivore would not exist if we didn't write the software. Dna profiling and facial recognition technology wasn't invented by a politician, regardless of Al Gore's involvement.
Those who wish to control us are powerless without our assistance.
Technology will assure government power, or assist in a possible revolution. As always, it is up to the individual which side of the contest they choose.
By the way, I used www.BugMeNot.com to hack into this thread anonymously. We do control power, if we have the cojones to use it.
Anybody notice San Francisco today outlawed handguns in your own home?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
The Patriot Act is Alarming but...
...nowhere near as alarming as electing the boy emperor president. Normally we'd be alarmed at the prospect of two impeachments in one decade, but in the current case, I reckon Americans would make an exception.
Posted by i_made_this (302 comments )
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