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John Ashcroft named privacy villain of the week [priv]
From: Declan McCullagh <declan () well com>
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 2004 00:27:41 -0400

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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [NCCP] Privacy Villain: John Ashcroft et al.
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 2004 16:04:29 -0400
From: J Plummer <jplummer () consumeralert org>
To: info () consumeralert org

Privacy Villain of the Week:
John Ashcroft

Not satisfied with the radical increases in subpoena power
<http://www.nccprivacy.org/handv/031121villain.htm> already granted in the
past few years, Attorney General John Ashcroft in a speech this week called
for even more powers to seize consumer records from businesses without
bothering with the pesky judicial process.

Ashcroft's remarks followed on the heels of a Senate subcommittee hearing
on a bill that would grant the Attorney General the ability to issue
subpoenas in so-called 'terror' investigations instead of going through a
grand jury (which would presumably subpoena a ham sandwich as soon as
indict one, anyway). <http://archive.aclu.org/congress/l102301d.html>

As one former assistant attorney general explained during the hearing, "To
my knowledge, Congress has never authorized the creation of a potentially
secret Executive branch police proceeding of the type contemplated by these
proposals... absent judicial process such as a search warrant, a grand jury
subpoena or a trial subpoena, American citizens have always had the right
to decline to answer questions put to them by the police or to deliver
their documents without a search warrant. [Under] the administrative
subpoenas for terrorism cases contemplated by the proposals under review in
today's hearing... No showing of reasonable suspicion, or probable cause or
imminent need or exigent circumstances would be required to authorize such

James Robinson went on to explain that the proposal even holds an
unprecedented "potential that administrative subpoenas could be issued by
federal agents without the approval of federal prosecutors."

At that same hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy pointed out, "the FBI already has
far-reaching compulsory powers to obtain documents and witness testimony
when it is investigating terrorism, under both its criminal and
intelligence authority by way of search warrants, grand jury subpoenas,
secret court orders and National Security Letters (or NSLs). More
traditional investigative techniques are also available, including mail
covers, trash runs, ex parte orders, and writs, just to name a few. "

Ashcroft's police-state plan gives consumers less reason to trust
businesses with personal information on their purchasing preferences. This
undermining of the customer-business relationship can leave businesses less
able to serve their customers by learning about their tastes and choices.
This attempt to gum up the smooth flow of information in the private
marketplace earns Ashcroft and his Congressional sponsors this week's
Privacy Villain award.

The Privacy Villain of the Week and Privacy Hero of the Month are projects
of the National Consumer Coalition's Privacy Group. For more information on
the NCC Privacy Group, see www.nccprivacy.org or contact James Plummer at
202-467-5809 or jplummer () consumeralert org . This essay available with
hyperlinks online at http://www.nccprivacy.org/handv/040702villain.htm .

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