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"Patriot II" Draft Law Proposes Changes
to Freedom of Information, DNA Database Rules

Among many suggested changes to current law, a draft of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, prepared by the Department of Justice, proposes that the government be allowed to: withhold information previously made available to the public by the Freedom of Information and Clean Air Acts; hold suspects without bail before trial; maintain a DNA database of suspected criminals; and expatriate citizens. Nicknamed "Patriot II" because it updates legislation introduced by the 2001 USA Patriot Act, it was posted on the Center for Public Integrity's website in January, 2003.

Section 201 of the draft proposes to amend the 1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides, with certain exceptions, that any person has a right to access federal agency records. Under the new bill, the government would no longer be required under the FOIA to disclose the identity of anyone detained in connection with a terror investigation, "until disclosure occurs routinely upon the initiation of criminal charges." Section 202 of the draft proposes to restrict the availability of environmental "worst case scenario" reports. Currently, companies using potentially dangerous chemicals must provide these under the Clean Air Act, but the draft legislation calls the reports "a roadmap for terrorists."

Sections 301 to 306 of the draft would authorize creation of a DNA index of "persons suspected of engaging in terrorism," "persons conspiring or attempting to do so," "persons suspected of being members of a terrorist organization," and "certain classes of aliens," among others. Current law, under 42 USC 14132, permits the FBI to index DNA identification records only of persons convicted of certain crimes.

Section 405 of the draft proposes that law enforcement be allowed to hold suspected terrorists without bail, before trial.

Section 501 proposes revoking the citizenship of any American who "with the intent to relinquish nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a terrorist organization, if that group is engaged in hostilities against the United States." The section says that "the intent to relinquish nationality need not be manifested in words, but can be inferred from conduct."

On February 7, 2003, the Department of Justice issued a statement saying that the proposal was not final and had not yet been presented to the Attorney General or the White House.

For more information on the proposed legislation, please see the ACLU's analysis or the Center for Public Integrity's report.

For more information on changes to the law made under the USA Patriot Act, please see our December, 2002 Hot Topic, U.S. Court Gives Justice Department More Power to Wiretap Citizens.

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Written March 29, 2003; Last updated Feb 5, 2008.


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