Thursday, March 1

PATRIOT Act Rears Its Ugly Head

PATRIOT Act Provision Sends Several U.S. Attorneys Packing

A little-known provision in the USA PATRIOT Act authorizes the Attorney General to appoint interim U.S. attorneys for indefinite periods, clearing the way for the recent dismissal of several prosecutors. Officials have repeatedly cited "poor job performance" to explain their decision to fire the eight attorneys, yet at least six of them received positive evaluations during Internal Justice Department performance reviews. A bill recently proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sought to change the appointment procedure, but it was stopped short by members of the GOP. Congressional committees in the House and Senate are planning hearings on the issue. Click here for more on those upcoming hearings.

Last week, the Department of Justice's (DOJ's) Inspector General released a report (PDF) that shows (1) the Department's statistics on terrorism cases are inaccurate and (2) the Department counts every arrest that results from a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) investigation "terrorism" or "terrorism-related," even after it has been proven to have no connection to terrorism.

Given these reports, here are some questions for our members of Congress:
Why accept the administration's "war on terror" justification for any program or legislation that curbs civil rights and liberties, for holding people indefinitely without charge or habeas corpus review, or for using torture, given that the administration's strategy in Iraq has made the U.S. and the world much more vulnerable to terrorist attacks?

Given that in many cases, the only information the DOJ reports to Congress on how it has used the powers granted by the PATRIOT Act is the number of times it has used those powers, don't the Inspector General report's findings indicate that Congress's limited oversight, which relies on those figures, is completely worthless?

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