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Expanded Wiretapping Forever

August 7, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress approved a bill last week that expanded President Bush’s powers to spy on Americans without a warrant, the only palliative was that it would expire after six months. Congress will try to re-negotiate then and if they are able to require the President to seek a warrant, he will be ready to pull another trick from his sleeve that makes it easy for him to get wiretapping warrants for just about anyone.

In May I wrote:

>This is suspicious. Just a few days after the House of Representatives voted on an amendment to the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act that states that the administration must comply with FISA in order to engage in wiretapping, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has begun pressing for Congress to pass a bill that would vastly expand the government’s ability to legally eavesdrop on citizens.

That bill, The Intellectual Property Enhanced Criminal Enforcement Act of 2007, was introduced on July 24th and it could easily be ready for a vote before Bush’s six months of warrantless spying are over. Here’s how it works:

Besides increasing penalties for all kinds of copyright infringement, the bill adds a new crime to the list that would be punished equally: “attempted” copyright infringement. Anyone who “attempts” to infringe copyrights (a charge so vague that it could apply to almost anyone) could be tried and put in jail, but before that, they could have their computer confiscated and be immediately subjected to a wiretap. The attempted copyright infringement clause amends Titles 17 and 18 of U.S.Code and subjects it to Section 2516:

>(1) The Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, Associate
Attorney General,(!1) or any Assistant Attorney General, any acting
Assistant Attorney General, or any Deputy Assistant Attorney
General or acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal
Division specially designated by the Attorney General, may
authorize an application to a Federal judge of competent
jurisdiction for, and such judge may grant in conformity with
section 2518 of this chapter an order authorizing or approving the
interception of wire or oral communications by the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, or a Federal agency having responsibility for the
investigation of the offense as to which the application is made,
when such interception may provide or has provided evidence of -

It goes on to explain that it applies to Federal Felonies, which copyright infringement is and attempted copyright infringement would be.

Even if Democrats are tough enough to stand up to Bush’s bullying in six months and defend the Constitution, they may not be able to stand against the business interests of Hollywood — one of their perennial soft spots. And you can be sure that they will be lobbying hard to get this bill passed.

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