Mike Jack & the Patriot Act
Anyone who has ever spent time at Neverland and has gone inside the main house (not everyone was allowed in Michael Joseph Jackson’s house), would have seen a photo of the King of Pop and President Ronald Reagan, as well as one of the Moonwalker and President Bill Clinton. Both photos were in the living room. To be sure, it was during this time that the government had much love for the Glove. In time, though, Uncle Sam would take the mittens off in dealing with Peter Pan. When Michael was falsely charged and tried, his “friends” in high places left him staring at The Man in the Mirror. And invoking the USA Patriot Act, they may have bypassed Elizabeth Taylor and instead focused Betty Davis Eyes on him.
Law professor David Cole contends that the Patriot Act robs us of some freedoms and was enacted by ignorant lawmakers. He alleges that only a few of them read the 342 pages that comprise the Act. Some now have misgivings. Two weeks ago I presented the arguments of an expert proponent of the Patriot Act. This week Cole’s concerns are presented herewith.
Material Support?: Particularly unnerving to Cole is the apparently retroactive nature of one provision of the Patriot Act. He references the ongoing case of two exemplary Palestinians, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh, who have been living for decades here in Los Angeles. Because they distributed magazines issued by a faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization to raise money for humanitarian aid to the West Bank, the government is seeking to deport them. “In the government’s view,” Cole protests, “it does not matter that these activities were lawful at the time they were engaged in, or that they are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech for all, not just citizens.”
How significant is this case? “If this law had been on the books in the 1980s,” bemoans Cole, “any foreign national who donated to the African National Congress for its largely lawful, nonviolent opposition to apartheid in South Africa would have been deportable, because the State Department designated the African National Congress a terrorist group until it came to power in South Africa with the fall of apartheid.” The government can freeze your assets simply by placing you “under investigation” for embargo violations.
Library Lies?: The “libraries provision” (Section 215 of the Patriot Act) allows authorities to demand “business records” from utility companies, employers, schools, bookstores, or even libraries. Particularly disturbing to critics is the associated gag order that prevents responsible entities in these from alerting you to the fact that you’re being investigated. “Defenders often claim that even before the Patriot Act, prosecutors could get such information through grand jury subpoenas, which did not even have to be approved in advance by a court,” notes Cole.
“But there are two critical differences. A grand jury subpoena requires the impaneling of a grand jury, which requires a substantial criminal investigation. Prosecutors are unlikely to impanel a grand jury absent a pretty strong reason for investigating. A Section 215 subpoena, by contrast, requires no grand jury whatsoever. In addition, a grand jury subpoena is not subject to a presumptive gag order. The library approached with a grand jury subpoena can go to the press about it, and that fact of public disclosure acts as a checking function on abuse of the power. Section 215 subpoenas, by contrast, are subject to a gag order that presumptively eliminates any public check on their abuse.”
“Knock and Announce”: The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches. With few exceptions, it requires law enforcement to obtain a search warrant and execute it during daylight hours. They have to knock on the door, announce their presence, and then show the householder the warrant prior to initiating the search. But things have changed: “Under the Patriot Act’s ‘sneak-and-peek’ authority,” says Cole, “the FBI can now obtain such approval for secret searches.” There’s more. “The ‘sneak-and-peek’ provision, moreover, is not limited to terrorist crimes,” complains Cole. “It applies to all federal crimes, including the most routine mail fraud investigation. Thus, in the name of fighting terrorism Congress diluted protection for us all.”
So how did Michael feel about all this? He concluded: “Jehovah is my helper. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6, New World Translation) Peace and blessings to all. Amen.