Tuesday, November 23

Panic! Only Hysteria Can Save Us Now!

Today's terrifying meme: USA Patriot Act II would make news gathering a crime.
Think the first Patriot Act was a civil rights and personal privacy tragedy? Just wait until you see Patriot Act II. Section 102 of the police state bill would make it a crime to engage in any information gathering, meaning that people who gather news headlines on the Internet would suddenly be deemed criminals and terrorists.

This is all based on some guy's summary of a draft Patriot II released by the Center for Public Integrity almost two years ago. The guy's analysis:

SECTION 102 states clearly that any information gathering, regardless of whether or not those activities are illegal, can be considered to be clandestine intelligence activities for a foreign power. This makes news gathering illegal.

Well, the actual provision redefines "clandestine information-gathering for a foreign power" to include clandestine information-gathering that may not be illegal under federal law. But you still have to be an agent of a foreign power to be charged with it. You know, like an al-Qaeda operative casing buildings near Wall Street--although you'd have to redefine "foreign power" to include him in ... At any rate, I guess if you wear your old-fashioned reporter's hat with a note tucked into the band reading "I blog for the government of Freedonia!" you'll be all right.

Just because a meme is virulent doesn't mean it's not perniciously stupid. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

The proposed language does bring up an interesting case, however: What if I were an Iranian journalist who wanted to do a hidden-camera sting exposing how taxi drivers at New York's international airports take roundabout routes to run up the meters on innocent out-of-towners? Would I be economically benefiting a foreign power by saving Iranian tourists money, and therefore qualify as an "agent of a foreign power"?

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