Patriot Act Peters Out in SF: Zero Snooping Complaints in 2010-2011

Categories: Law & Order
At times, public uneasiness about the liberty-and-privacy-quashing possibilities of the USA Patriot Act rivaled fear of the terrorists the Act was supposed to help protect us against.

In San Francisco, Patriot-Act worries reached a crescendo in 2005, when voters passed a measure allowing the Board of Supervisors to confront any federal agents that ever came looking for records that could violate San Franciscans' right to privacy.

But nearly 10 years after the Act's passage, San Francisco officials are reporting that federal snoops don't seem to be showing much interest in us.

During the early 2000s, civil-liberties-minded Americans were concerned about a portion of the  Patriot Act, passed in Oct. 2001,authorizing intrusive information requests by the federal government. 

In an oft-repeated theoretical scenario, a librarian might be asked for the book-loan records of a patron. The librarian would then being put in an awkward situation of either disobeying the federal request, or possibly violating a patron's constitutional rights.

San Francisco fought back. Under Proposition E, passed by voters in 2005, the librarian would refer a federal request for information to the full Board of Supervisors, which could only respond to a request by issuing a resolution.

According to the memorandum linked below, however, local officials last year reported zero instances where feds made information requests "which could violate the rights of any individuals under the State or Federal Constitutions." 

File Proposition E away under noisy San Francisco public protests that had mostly symbolic, rather than practical, effect.

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With secret interpretations of common law. Secret investigations. Secret courts. NO standard for probable cause. No oversight. And this governments ability to neither confirm or deny claims of violations. It is impossible for anyone to know whether they are a victim. 

Even if you have proof, they will claim "state secret". The government memo reporting zero instances of civil rights violations is worth less than the paper it was printed on.

Not all US citizens are sheep cowering in the dark, scared of our own shadow and praying that big brother will protect me.  Open government and oversight will assure the true patriot. Only when we know for a fact what our government has been doing in our name can we as Americans be proud of our country.


Symbolic rather than practical describes most BoS efforts.

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