This information provided by The Federal Observer, http://www.federalobserver.com
By Ken Ritter – Associated Press
LAS VEGAS - Rebecca Foster couldn't believe it when a bank cited the USA Patriot Act and asked her and fellow homeowners association board members for their Social Security and driver's license numbers.
"They said they had to check us against a terrorist list," said Foster, a grandmother whose five-member board oversees a Las Vegas community. "That seemed kind of preposterous. None of us are terrorists."
A week earlier, the FBI in Las Vegas acknowledged agents used Patriot Act authorization instead of the grand jury to investigate a striptease club owner and several elected officials.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada calls both uses of the act excessive and says Congress handed over cherished American rights in its haste to give the Bush administration tools to fight terror.
Calls for repeal of the act have found fertile ground in Nevada — an old cowboy state where state vs. federal issues are still fought on riverbeds, at nuclear sites and in the courts.
A broad spectrum including liberals, conservatives, Libertarians, gay and Hispanic activists rallied in three corners of the state this week, calling for Nevada to join Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont and 210 U.S. communities that have passed resolutions urging curbs on the Patriot Act.
"The fact that this issue crosses the political spectrum really lends credibility to the concern," said Janine Hansen of Sparks, president of the conservative Nevada Eagle Forum.
A Justice Department official denied the Patriot Act infringes on Constitutional rights and called the act necessary to fight terrorism.
"It protects the lives and liberties of Americans, rather than detracting from them," said spokeswoman Monica Goodling from Washington, D.C. "It is simply an update of the laws that was needed to help close gaping loopholes in our ability to fight modern-day terror."
Officially called the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, it granted the government broad powers for searches, wiretaps and electronic and computer eavesdropping. Authorities can search people's homes and delay notifying them and track multiple phones with "roving wiretaps."
"The act was intended to be used against terrorists, and we're using it against American citizens without constitutional protections," said Lana Noland of Elko.
A former Libertarian Party chairwoman, Noland has been active in a long-running dispute with the U.S. Forest Service over jurisdiction of a remote gravel road running along the Jarbidge River. On Thursday, she joined one of three Nevada rallies against the Patriot Act.
"Do you really want somebody looking through your financial records so you can serve on a homeowners association board?" she asked. "I don't think so."
Natsu Taylor Saito, a professor of law at Georgia State University in Atlanta and author of a recent Oregon Law Review article about uses of the Patriot Act, said she expects that as the measure affects more people, more will oppose it.
"What we see in the Patriot Act is an attempt to legalize and make more easily available to intelligence agencies tools that were used illegally and unconstitutionally to fight attempts to bring about social and political change," Saito said.
"I think people are seeing enough instances in which lawful and constitutionally protected activities are being targeted to realize they don't want this unbridled power given to law enforcement agencies," she said.
The Justice Department's Goodling said law enforcers have a responsibility to use laws that Congress provides to fight crime.
"Americans expect us to use every legal tool available to do our jobs in enforcing the law," she said.
But in recent weeks, two members of Nevada's five-person congressional delegation expressed concern that the government might be going too far.
After the FBI acknowledged using the Patriot Act in the political corruption case, Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, sent a letter asking Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) for an explanation.
Democratic Sen. Harry Reid also expressed second-thoughts about approving the measure in late 2001.
"There are concerns that misuse of the Patriot Act could lead to a widespread invasion of privacy," Reid said in a statement. "We have to be tough on terrorists, but we also have to guard the privacy of American citizens."
November 15, 2003