If Attorney General John Ashcroft’s USA PATRIOT Act didn’t take a good chunk of our liberties, brace yourself for the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. If enacted, it promises to strip your shriveling rights away even further.
For six months, the Justice Department has been drafting rules to expand its power to pry. The American Civil Liberties Union says the proposed legislation would make it easier for the government to wiretap individuals in a national emergency, collect genetic samples without court order or consent, broaden the definition of terrorism to make it easier to obtain search warrants, give complete immunity to businesses that phone in terrorism tips about their employees, even if the tips are baseless, and take away citizenship from native-born Americans who associate with organizations that the Justice Department believes have terrorist affiliations.
All this is aimed to bolster the 9/11-inspired USA PATRIOT Act, which has already proved to be a handy tool for federal investigators, who have used it to pry into the records of library patrons and Internet clients and hassle a scuba-shop owner in Beverly Hills. Authorities were fearful that a diver could sneak into a U.S. port and do a terrorist deed.
What’s next? Government-issued tracking devices embedded in Starbucks coffee cups?