Bush Hyping Patriot Act Claims

Today, President Bush took to the stump to call for the renewal of the Patriot Act. To bolster his case, Bush claimed the Patriot Act helped nab suspected terrorist Iyman Faris. In his speech, Bush said:

Here is what one FBI agent said — he said, “The Faris case would not have happened without sharing information.” That information-sharing was made possible by the Patriot Act.

There’s no doubt that information-sharing was extremely influential in leading to the FBI’s apprehension of Faris, but whether the Patriot Act allowed for greater information sharing is doubtful. Faris’s capture has been politicized before. In June 2004, John Ashcroft took to the microphone in Columbus, Ohio, during the middle of a heated presidential election to announce the “capture” of Faris, who was already in jail serving a 20-year sentence. Many read the Bush administration’s actions on the Faris capture as being a political effort to push for the renewal of the Patriot Act, and they claim the Act is not as influential as Bush would lead us to believe.

The Columbus Dispatch investigated this question and found some skepticism regarding Bush’s claim. Nancy Luque, a prominent defense attorney in Washington, was quoted as saying, “Ashcroft is using this [capture of Faris] as a paid political announcement for the Patriot Act when I see nothing here that required its use. The information-sharing is better, but I doubt that is a result of the Patriot Act, but more to do with 9/11.”

Luque is not the only one who questions whether information-sharing in the Patriot Act is all that it has been billed up to be. An analysis by the Center for Democracy & Technology reported that the Patriot Act did little to change the way information was shared among government agencies:

“The outcry over the PATRIOT Act has little to do with the increased ability of federal agencies to share relevant intelligence or increase their coordination. In fact, there was never a legal bar to intelligence agencies sharing information with prosecutors. Intelligence and law enforcement officials weren’t effectively sharing information and using their existing powers not because of legal barriers, but because of their overly strict interpretation of then-existing law, cultural problems, and turf wars among agencies.”