Wednesday, April 21, 2004

MAYBE IF ASHCROFT DEMANDS THE CAPE COD TIMES' SUBSCRIPTION LIST ... The indefatigable Walter Brooks has posted on his Cape Cod Media site two editorials on the loathsome Patriot Act. One, from the New York Times, is against it. The other, from the Cape Cod Times, is all for it.

Amazingly, the Cape Cod paper, part of the Dow Jones empire, goes so far as to support the most chilling part of the Patriot Act - Section 215, which allows federal agents, with minimal court oversight, to demand that a library or bookstore turn over the records of a patron in total secrecy, with no right of appeal. The editorial says:

That's why the Patriot Act allows - with FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court approval - the FBI to snoop and gather third-party records without the criminal requirement of certifying that a crime has already taken place, or informing the subject of a search with a traditional warrant. If a terror attack is looming, what would be the point of telling would-be Mohammed Attas they're under suspicion?

By contrast, the New York Times says this:

Among the most troubling provisions is Section 215, which allows the F.B.I. to order libraries, hospitals and others with personal records to hand over such information about individuals. People like librarians can be jailed if they refuse, or if they notify the targets. Another authorizes "sneak and peek" searches, in which the government can secretly search people's homes and delay telling them about the intrusions. As troubling as specific provisions like these is the "mission creep" that has inevitably occurred. Mr. Bush's own Justice Department told Congress last fall that the act's loosened restrictions on government surveillance were regularly being used in nonterrorism cases, like drug trafficking and white-collar crime.

Brooks presents the two editorials with this puckish introduction: "Both the Cape Cod Times and the New York Times ran lead editorials today on the wisdom of passing The Patriot Act which expires shortly. The two editorials are diametrically opposed, and we recommend that our readers be the judge of which advice to follow."

REAL MEN DON'T NEED TRIALS. Also not big on legal protections today is the Boston Herald, whose front-page - festooned with a huge file photo of Saddam Hussein shortly after being pulled out of the spider hole - declares: $75 MILLION TO PROVE WHAT WE KNOW ALREADY: HE'S GUILTY!

Inside, David Guarino's story makes the perfectly reasonable point that $75 million is an awful lot of money for the tribunal that Iraq plans to establish.

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