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News Link • Surveillance

Howlers on the Patriot Act

• ACLU
The Patriot Act has been surrounded by a cloud of fear-mongering since it was reintroduced almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks and rushed through Congress, without any finding that the sweeping new powers granted by the act had anything to do with the problems and failures that contributed to that attack. At the heart of the issue has been confusion between giving the authorities surveillance powers, and giving them unchecked surveillance powers. Much of what the Patriot Act did was to remove independent judges from oversight over invasions of privacy conducted in the name of law enforcement and national security. Two Bush administration officials, former National Security Administration (NSA) director and former CIA director Michael V. Hayden and former Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, continued that tradition of inaccuracy and fear-mongering in an op-ed published last week in the Washington Post. In their piece, they target a modest piece of legislation proposed by Se

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ross Wolf
Entered on:

Government / Police Using Patriot Act To Expand Asset Forfeitures

Almost on a weekly basis Police are reported arrested and convicted for involvement in illegal drug trafficking, accepting bribes and providing perjured testimony to cause a conviction. It is foreseeable that as the U.S. economy worsens, Police departments faced with having to layoff police officers and shrinking budgets, will increasingly look to other people’s property via Civil and Criminal Asset Forfeiture to pay their salaries and department operating costs. The current U.S. economic crisis has the potential of turning local police departments into Asset Forfeiture Squads. Corrupt Police too easily can falsify civil evidence to seize property; coerce or buy informant testimony to convict a person of a crime or civilly Forfeit someone's property.

U.S. Federal and State Civil Asset Forfeiture requires a much lower standard of evidence than criminal evidence, “only a Preponderance of Civil Evidence” little more than hearsay to forfeit property. The Patriot Act included that low standard of civil evidence for civil asset forfeiture referencing 18USC. Current U.S. civil asset forfeiture laws allow government to charge property with crime. No one need be charged with or convicted of a crime. There are over 200 federal laws and violations that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture for example; an alleged misrepresentation on a mortgage application can forever subject a homeowner’s home to civil asset forfeiture. U.S. local police often work through federal police agencies utilizing U.S. Government’s (low standard of civil evidence) required in civil asset prosecutions to forfeit property, so that local police can share in assets forfeited by the FEDS. That allows local and State police to circumvent state laws that require a conviction before a defendant’s property can be seized.
 
U.S. Police asset forfeitures since 2007 have been severely set back due to the continuing crash of real estate values. Police prior derived its largest asset forfeiture revenues from selling seized homes. U.S. Police are increasingly utilizing 200 U.S. laws and violations to investigate alleged white-collar, small business and corporate crimes to expand civil asset forfeiture) to intellectual property, royalties, patent and contract rights that require only clerical oversight, little storage costs, otherwise required for seized boats, planes and cars. Seized Intellectual assets don’t have to be sold by U.S. Government and may be used to provide a continuing stream of income to support police budgets, police forfeiture quads and the Justice Department.

U.S. Government appears intended to hugely expand asset forfeitures. The U.S. Justice Department’s—recently proposed forcing without warrants, all Electronic Communication Companies to retain permanently, user Phone Call Records and Internet Activity Data. That would effectively trash the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. The Justice Dept. wants the power without a warrant, to introduce as evidence in criminal and civil prosecutions, e.g., Administrative Proceedings—any electronic communication or Internet Activity. That would open the door for Police to take out of context any innocent—hastily written email, fax or phone call record to allege a crime or violation was committed to cause a person’s arrest; assess large fines and or civil asset forfeiture proceedings of private property. If U.S. Justice Department has its way, the FBI will have the power to use information derived from (no warrant surveillance of electronic communications) as the basis to issue National Security Letters (NLS) and subpoena Citizen's private and businesses records in hopes of discovering (real evidence) to prosecute a crime or violation—circumventing the Fourth Amendment. Consider: neither Congress nor the courts—determined what illegal NSA electronic surveillance under Bush II could be used by police or introduced into court by a government agency to prosecute a Citizen or forfeit their property. If the U.S. Justice Department is permitted warrant-less spying of all electronic communications, it is more than problematic law enforcement and private government contractors will seek access to prior and future illegal NSA/FBI and other government illegal electronic surveillance e.g. private emails, phone call information, faxes and Internet Activity to cause arrests; civilly forfeit Citizens’ homes and business assets under Title 18USC and other laws. Of obvious concern, what happens to fair justice in America if police become dependent on “Asset Forfeiture” to help pay their salaries and budget operating costs?

The “Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000” (effectively eliminated) the “statue of limitations” for Government Civil Asset Forfeiture: the statute now runs (five years) from the date police allege they “learned” that an asset became subject to forfeiture. It is foreseeable that should (warrant-less electronic surveillance) be approved in the U.S., police will relentlessly sift through decades of Americans’ illegally seized electronic communications to allege crimes and violations. A corrupt U.S. Government could like other corrupt governments, use illegally seized electronic information or if subsequently approved (U.S. warrant-less electronic spying) to extort large corporations and persons in positions of power, similar to how Hitler used Gestapo spies to force businesses and others to support Reich polices; the German Parliament passing of Hitler’s 1933 Discriminatory Decrees—that voided Constitutional Freedoms of German Citizens.

Currently most U.S. property and business owners that defend their assets against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture claim an “innocent owner defense.” This defense can become a (Catch 22) criminal prosecution trap for both guilty and innocent property owners. (Any fresh denial of guilt) made to the Federal Government and some State Governments, when questioned about committing a crime (even when you did not do the crime) may involuntarily wave a defendant’s right to assert—in a concurrent or subsequent criminal prosecution the Statute of Limitations past. Any fresh denial of guilt even 30 years after a crime was committed may allow Government to launch a criminal prosecution. For that reason many criminals and innocent property and business owners are reluctant to defend their property and businesses against Government Civil Asset Forfeiture. U.S. Government and some States can now use as evidence (old illegal wiretaps) in Criminal and Civil Asset Forfeiture Prosecutions based on a 2004 federal court case that lowered the barrier for introducing illegally obtained evidence.

Re: waiving Criminal Statute of Limitations: see USC18, Sec.1001, James Brogan V. United States. N0.96-1579. U.S.
See paragraph (6) at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/96-1579.ZC1.html


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