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Registered: 07/19/02
Posts: 2,185
Loc: Canada
Last seen: 4 years, 2 months
Patriot Act Used Against Common Criminals
    #1916960 - 09/14/03 11:00 PM (20 years, 8 months ago)

New Patriot Act Terror Laws Used Against Common Criminals


(AP) - In the two years since law enforcement agencies gained fresh powers to help them track down and punish terrorists, police and prosecutors have increasingly turned the force of the new laws not on al-Qaida cells but on people charged with common crimes. The Justice Department said it has used authority given to it by the USA Patriot Act to crack down on currency smugglers and seize money hidden overseas by alleged bookies, con artists and drug dealers.

Federal prosecutors used the act in June to file a charge of "terrorism using a weapon of mass destruction" against a California man after a pipe bomb exploded in his lap, wounding him as he sat in his car. A North Carolina county prosecutor charged a man accused of running a methamphetamine lab with breaking a new state law barring the manufacture of chemical weapons. If convicted, Martin Dwayne Miller could get 12 years to life in prison for a crime that usually brings about six months.

Prosecutor Jerry Wilson says he isn't abusing the law, which defines chemical weapons of mass destruction as "any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury" and contains toxic chemicals. Civil liberties and legal defense groups are bothered by the string of cases, and say the government soon will be routinely using harsh anti-terrorism laws against run-of-the-mill lawbreakers.

"Within six months of passing the Patriot Act, the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to stretch the new wiretapping provisions to extend them beyond terror cases," said Dan Dodson, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. "They say they want the Patriot Act to fight terrorism, then, within six months, they are teaching their people how to use it on ordinary citizens."

Prosecutors aren't apologizing. Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) completed a 16-city tour this week defending the Patriot Act as key to preventing a second catastrophic terrorist attack. Federal prosecutors have brought more than 250 criminal charges under the law, with more than 130 convictions or guilty pleas.

The law, passed two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, erased many restrictions that had barred the government from spying on its citizens, granting agents new powers to use wiretaps, conduct electronic and computer eavesdropping and access private financial data. Stefan Cassella, deputy chief for legal policy for the Justice Department's asset forfeiture and money laundering section, said that while the Patriot Act's primary focus was on terrorism, lawmakers were aware it contained provisions that had been on prosecutors' wish lists for years and would be used in a wide variety of cases.

In one case prosecuted this year, investigators used a provision of the Patriot Act to recover $4.5 million from a group of telemarketers accused of tricking elderly U.S. citizens into thinking they had won the Canadian lottery. Prosecutors said the defendants told victims they would receive their prize as soon as they paid thousands of dollars in income tax on their winnings. Before the anti-terrorism act, U.S. officials would have had to use international treaties and appeal for help from foreign governments to retrieve the cash, deposited in banks in Jordan and Israel. Now, they simply seized it from assets held by those banks in the United States.

"These are appropriate uses of the statute," Cassella said. "If we can use the statute to get money back for victims, we are going to do it." The complaint that anti-terrorism legislation is being used to go after people who aren't terrorists is just the latest in a string of criticisms. More than 150 local governments have passed resolutions opposing the law as an overly broad threat to constitutional rights. Critics also say the government has gone too far in charging three U.S. citizens as enemy combatants, a power presidents wield during wartime that is not part of the Patriot Act. The government can detain such individuals indefinitely without allowing them access to a lawyer.

And Muslim and civil liberties groups have criticized the government's decision to force thousands of mostly Middle Eastern men to risk deportation by registering with immigration authorities. "The record is clear," said Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way Foundation. "Ashcroft and the Justice Department have gone too far."

Some of the restrictions on government surveillance that were erased by the Patriot Act had been enacted after past abuses ? including efforts by the FBI (news - web sites) to spy on civil rights leaders and anti-war demonstrators during the Cold War. Tim Lynch, director of the Project on Criminal Justice at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said it isn't far fetched to believe that the government might overstep its bounds again.

"I don't think that those are frivolous fears," Lynch said. "We've already heard stories of local police chiefs creating files on people who have protested the (Iraq (news - web sites)) war ... The government is constantly trying to expand its jurisdictions, and it needs to be watched very, very closely."

:shake: There is a quote out there that sums up my feelings on this: "Those who abandon freedom for security will receive neither".  Or something like that.     

man = monkey + mushroom

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Chill the FuckOut!
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Registered: 10/10/02
Posts: 27,301
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Re: Patriot Act Used Against Common Criminals [Re: pattern]
    #1916964 - 09/14/03 11:03 PM (20 years, 8 months ago)

:nonono: :nonono: :nonono: :nonono: :nonono:


"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."--Voltaire

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unintended sideeffect

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 842
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Re: Patriot Act Used Against Common Criminals [Re: silversoul7]
    #1916986 - 09/14/03 11:12 PM (20 years, 8 months ago)

Another related story:


FBI probe at Dominion nuke plants criticized
3 fired, 2 suspended for misdemeanors

By Chris Flores
Daily Press

September 13, 2003

The federal government's first attempt to ferret out potential terrorists at companies with nuclear sites netted at least 20 Virginia employees with misdemeanors - and an angry union.

Five employees who work in Dominion Virginia Power's nuclear division, including three at Surry Power Station, were fired or suspended after the Federal Bureau of Investigation found misdemeanors in their backgrounds. A sixth staffer resigned.

Dominion is the first company since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to undergo thorough FBI background checks of all nuclear workers on its payroll. The FBI does background checks on all nuclear workers when they're hired, but fears that terrorists could target nuclear plants spurred the FBI to see what crimes every nuclear-utility worker nationwide might have committed since being hired.

Among the misdemeanors that caused FBI agents to question Dominion employees and the utility to discipline them: a reckless-driving charge from the early 1980s, domestic-dispute charges and public-drunkenness citations that were all dropped.

"These guys are far, far, far from terrorists," International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 50 representative John Hessler said. "That's what really angers me. These guys are just average Joes."

The FBI investigation involved all 1,240 employees at Dominion's Virginia nuclear operations, including the Surry and North Anna plants. It didn't include staffers at the Millstone nuclear plant that Dominion operates in Connecticut.

IBEW members work at about 90 percent of the 103 other nuclear plants nationwide, Hessler said. The union's national headquarters is watching closely to see whether the actions taken by federal officials and utility executives occur elsewhere.

"They're fully expecting that at the other nuclear plants across the country, it's going to happen again," Hessler said of the IBEW's international officials.

At Surry, one salaried employee was fired, one union member was fired and another was suspended and then reinstated. At Dominion's nuclear-division headquarters in Henrico County, one salaried worker was fired and one resigned. A union employee at the North Anna nuclear plant was suspended and reinstated.

Dominion said it had clear-cut rules for what misdemeanors would get someone fired but would not describe those policies. For more than 20 years, Dominion employees with badges that give them access to nuclear sites were supposed to inform their supervisors if they were arrested, Dominion spokesman Rick Zuercher said.

The misdemeanors found by the FBI resulted in about 15 Dominion hourly union employees at the Surry and North Anna plants getting called in for random drug tests July 2. Hessler said the employees were shocked when FBI agents asked them a barrage of questions about the misdemeanors.

"It was not a nice atmosphere to be around, I can tell you that," Hessler said. "It totally caught them off guard."

Dominion wouldn't say how many salaried employees were questioned. After the interviews, three hourly employees - including two from Surry - were suspended, stripped of their security badges and escorted from the sites by Dominion security. The company didn't communicate with those employees for five weeks.

The union filed grievances on behalf of two hourly workers from the Surry plant and one from North Anna. Two of those workers returned to their jobs last month with back pay and lost overtime.

In August, Dominion fired a third employee - who worked at the Surry plant - because it found that he had three misdemeanors on his record. The IBEW is trying to help him get his job back.

Both of the workers who were suspended had told their supervisors about the misdemeanors at the time they occurred, Hessler said.

At least some, if not all, of the 13 others questioned by the FBI also had told their supervisors - decades ago, in some cases - he said.

Dominion officials said that they didn't consider any of the employees who were fired or suspended to be terrorism threats and that the people didn't lose their jobs because of poor performance.

"This was a trustworthiness issue, not a terrorism issue," Zuercher said.

He acknowledged that the search for terrorists was what sparked the investigations into the employees' backgrounds.

Neither the FBI office in Richmond nor the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia would comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.
  --  Howard Zinn

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Registered: 11/08/02
Posts: 32,665
Loc: Ripple's Heart
Re: Patriot Act Used Against Common Criminals [Re: pattern]
    #1920233 - 09/15/03 11:53 PM (20 years, 8 months ago)

I like how they try to indicate that it is being
abused in good ways, not just bad ways.

like getting money back for poor grandma
and grandpa that got duped.

it is still an abuse, no matter if the means
justify the ends.

sickening, for sure.

All I know is The Growery is a place where losers who get banned here go.

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Registered: 10/11/02
Posts: 7,571
Loc: Hyperspace
Last seen: 13 years, 10 days
Re: Patriot Act Used Against Common Criminals [Re: pattern]
    #1920510 - 09/16/03 02:08 AM (20 years, 8 months ago)



Insert an "I think" mentally in front of eveything I say that seems sketchy, because I certainly don't KNOW much. Also; feel free to yell at me.
In addition: SHPONGLE

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