Sunday, September 14, 2003

Depressing but worth reading:

New Terror Laws Used Vs. Common Criminals

    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.
    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.
And while we're at it, this story: Bush Seeks to Expand Access to Private Data

    ... in a plan announced this week to expand counterterrorism powers, President Bush adopted a very different tack. In a three-point presidential plan that critics are already dubbing Patriot Act II, Mr. Bush is seeking broad new authority to allow federal agents without the approval of a judge or even a federal prosecutor to demand private records and compel testimony.
    In announcing his plan on Wednesday, Mr. Bush said one way to give authorities stronger tools to fight terrorists was to let agents demand records through what are known as administrative subpoenas, in order to move more quickly without waiting for a judge.
    The president noted that the government already had the power to use such subpoenas without a judge's consent to catch "crooked doctors" in health care fraud cases and other investigations.
    The analogy was accurate as far as it went, but what Mr. Bush did not mention, legal experts said, was that administrative subpoenas are authorized in health care investigations because they often begin as civil cases, where grand jury subpoenas cannot be issued.
We looked, and couldn't find any details about the compelling of testimony, but it sure sounds bad.


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