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  1. #1
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    Default "Big Brother is Us."

    *** I Have Seen Big Brother And He Is Us
    - Andrew S. Fischer

    Having been recently appointed Anti-Money Laundering Officer at my
    investment firm, I now have the official, government-sanctioned
    power to scrutinize our clients' account activity and report almost
    anything I deem "suspicious activity" to the federal government. Be
    worried, friends be very worried since every bank, every
    brokerage house, every financial institution in the U.S. is
    required by the Patriot Act to appoint an AML Officer, enact
    procedures to combat money-laundering, and file Suspicious Activity
    Reports on U.S. citizens. (You can view the 4-page SAR-SF form

    The Act's definition of a financial institution is disturbingly
    broad. It includes dealers in precious metals, stones, or jewels;
    pawnbrokers; loan or finance companies; insurance companies; travel
    agencies; telegraph companies; sellers of vehicles, including
    automobiles, airplanes, and boats. Essentially, it means your
    financial transactions are subject to investigation if you purchase
    an engagement ring, insure your home, take a vacation or buy a car.

    According to the statute, if I simply should have become aware of
    suspicious activity and fail to report it, I may have broken the
    law. So, if I have a head cold one day and miss a $5,000 wire
    transfer on a client's brokerage statement which is clearly
    suspicious activity since this client is a 90-year-old widow living
    on fixed-income investments, who has never made a wire transfer in
    ten years I could be in trouble. (Don't laugh this applies not
    just to the AML Officer, but to every employee in a financial
    organization in a position to view client transactions. So, if you
    make an unusually large deposit at the bank one day, your teller
    must report this potential "suspicious activity" to higher ups or
    face possible sanctions.)

    As AML Officer, I am required to report a client's activity as
    suspicious if it merely fails to make business sense or appears to
    be without economic purpose. So, if a client transfers $10,000 into
    his investment account and breathlessly says "Buy gold stocks!" an
    hour after Alan Greenspan and Fox News proclaim "Scientists Prove
    All Gold on Earth is Iron Pyrite," I have to turn him in.

    If a client is a young school teacher and deposits, say, five $2,000
    checks over a period of ten days, she must be questioned about it.
    Since this might be perfectly normal for a middle-aged, high-income
    surgeon, however, I wouldn't have to question her at all thus
    lower-income clients will necessarily suffer more intrusions into
    their privacy than those who earn more. By the way, as AML Officer
    I'm safe-harbored against violations of privacy laws I may be forced
    to commit while adhering to the regulations of the Patriot Act.

    It gets worse. As I've noted, clients are to be questioned and
    then reported to the feds on Form SAR-SF if I don't like their
    answers if their transactions indicate suspicious activity. But
    it does not end there I'm also required to be on the lookout for
    potential tax evasion (as well as check fraud, embezzlement, theft,
    identity theft or mail fraud). So, if a client deposits $1,000
    which he states he won by betting $1,000 on the Super Bowl, and
    wants to buy his daughter a Treasury bond with that money, I'm
    obligated by federal law to rat him out. Of course, all of this is
    just the tip of the Patriot Act iceberg; see, e.g., "Outside View:
    Patriot Act Problems."

    I find this situation repulsive in the extreme. It is Orwell's
    1984, slightly delayed. It will result in a paranoia explosion
    reminiscent of Nazi-era Germany. What if the Super Bowl bettor in
    the above example later hears from another person that I will
    probably file an SAR-SF about his $1,000 deposit? Will he then, out
    of fear, report it on his tax return the government's secondary
    desired end? Or will he just phone me and say he made "that betting
    thing" up? Then what do I do? Will he contact me and beg or
    threaten me to keep silent? Then what do I do? What if the bettor
    is my own father? Then what do I do!?

    I'm already an unpaid tax collector for the federal government,
    since I prepare my firm's payroll, and now, without my consent, I'm
    also its unpaid law enforcement agent and informant. I can only
    wonder, fearfully, what comes next.
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  3. #2
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    Default Quotes


    "Information is the currency of democracy."
    - Thomas Jefferson
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    Memorable Quotes

    "The family had become in effect an extension of the Thought Police.
    It was a device by means of which everyone could be surrounded night
    and day by informers who knew him intimately."
    - George Orwell - 1984
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    *** Quotes

    "Fear is the foundation of most governments."
    - John Adams of Massachusetts
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    And other Quotes:

    "I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for
    several weeks."
    - Daniel Boone, 1734 - 1820 (Great American Frontiersman.)
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    More Quotes

    "Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see
    - J. P. Morgan
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


    "It might be more worthwhile if we stopped wringing our hands and
    started ringing our congressmen."
    - Author Unknown
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    "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation
    with the average voter."
    - Winston Churchill
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    Even More Quotes

    "If people behaved like governments, you'd call the cops."
    - Kelvin Throop
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    Another Quote

    "Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor."
    - James Russell Lowell
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Thought provoking quotes:

    "Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for
    appointment by the corrupt few."
    - George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, "Maxims: Education," 1905
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    Quote of the month!

    "The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the
    hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An
    invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy."
    - Woodrow Wilson
    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = ==
    Last edited by rahly; 20-09-2005 at 09:53 PM.

  4. #3
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    Default Patriot Act on Trial

    Patriot Act on trial

    (Original publication: September 19, 2005)

    While Congress debates the future of the Patriot Act, a direct challenge to one of its provisions that exposes a chilling illustration of its use is under way in Connecticut. It is heartening that the challengers have won the first round.

    Passed in a congressional stampede in the fearful days after 9/11, the Patriot Act greatly expanded the government's arsenal to pursue anti-terrorism investigations. Some provisions were reasonable extensions of existing power; others were overreaching intrusions on civil liberties.

    Of the latter, none attracted more attention and opposition ("hysteria," then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called it) than the measure that allowed investigators to obtain patrons' records from libraries and a host of other organizations and institutions . . .

    • In permanent secrecy;

    • Without a court's permission;

    • Without suspecting the patron of wrongdoing;

    • Without an opportunity for the government's demand to be resisted.

    Not only did the prospect of such snooping run contrary to our ingrained reverence for freedom of inquiry and thought, it was an abuse that a great many Americans could easily relate to — lots of us law-abiding types use libraries.

    It is that provision that is on trial in a federal court in Bridgeport, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Association on behalf of . . . well, we don't know. That's the point of this phase of the court action. So secretive is this provision that the organization that received an FBI demand for records, through a form of subpoena known as a "national security letter," would break the law simply by revealing that fact. What is known is that it is a nonprofit entity in Connecticut that is a member of the American Library Association.

    The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of the law, including its permanent gag order. The federal district court judge hearing the case has yet to consider the broader challenges but has ruled that the government was violating the First Amendment by preventing the organization from speaking out about the Patriot Act, identifying itself in the process.

    Judge Janet C. Hall found that the government failed to make the compelling case it must make before abridging freedom of speech. She rejected the government's contention that the "John Doe" client was free to protest the Patriot Act, but without revealing that it had been targeted. Those who have felt the law's power are precisely the ones the nation needs to hear from, she wrote: "The potential for abuse is written into the statute: the very people who might have information regarding investigative abuses and overreaching are pre-emptively prevented from sharing that information with the public and with the legislators who empower the executive branch with the tools used to investigate matters of national security."

    The judge put her decision on hold until tomorrow to give the U.S. Attorney's Office a chance to appeal.

    This was the ACLU's second "library law" victory. Last September, in a decision also awaiting repeal, a federal judge in New York declared the provision unconstitutional because of its lack of judicial oversight and its gag order. It was an Internet access firm resisting the law in that case.

    The Senate and House, in separate legislation that would extend and alter Patriot Act provisions, have called for establishing some judicial review of the "national security letters" and for easing the gag rule. Neither goes far enough in rolling back the objectionable core of the law: the government's ability to pry into the constitutionally protected activities of Americans unsuspected of any crime.

    If Congress fails to restore constitutional protections, the courts must.

  5. #4
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    Default Don't Like The Patriot Act?

    From The Republican,Springfield,Connecticut

    Don't like Patriot Act? Be careful of saying so
    Monday, September 26, 2005

    You have the obligation to remain silent.

    That is what the anti-terrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act says to librarians who have been asked by authorities to hand over records about patrons' activities.

    Talking is against the law.

    Last Tuesday, an appeals court panel upheld that view, at least temporarily.

    Librarians believed to be part of a Connecticut consortium have challenged authorities' use of the Patriot Act. But the very law that they are challenging includes a provision that forbids them from talking about the law or its implementation.

    Earlier this month, a federal district court in Bridgeport, Conn., ruled that imposing silence upon the librarians was a violation of their rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Tuesday's order puts that ruling on hold.

    The First Amendment states, in part: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."

    But the Patriot Act, of course, did just that.

    Here is the situation: Federal authorities can talk all day and all night about the USA Patriot Act. They can praise it. They can sanctify it. They can tell the citizenry that it is keeping us safe from more terrorist attacks.

    But someone who is questioning the use of the act, someone who has been required to help the federal government do some snooping, can say nary a word.

    When Congress was debating whether certain provisions of the Patriot Act should be renewed - including the controversial provisions regarding library records - the Connecticut librarians were not allowed to be a part of that debate.

    What do you call a discussion that allows for only one side to be heard? Certainly not democratic. And what do you call a law that imposes such a one-sided discussion? Certainly not patriotic. And having named the provisions the USA Patriot Act does not change those facts.

    In issuing its stay, the appeals court said it would act quickly in reviewing the government's appeal of the lower court's decision. We would hope, too, that it acts wisely. Free speech isn't free when only one side gets to state its case.

    Let the librarians be heard.

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