Lynch and James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, both gave examples of problems within
"I take no civil liberties benefit or comfort in government inefficiency," Dempsey said. "Maybe the worst you're going to get then is this arbitrary, unpredictable kind of behavior."
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo defended the Patriot Act as an "absolute success." The legislation "goes to great lengths" to protect civil liberties, he said.
"I would ask the critics to name one civil liberty that's been weakened. The Patriot Act has been one of the best weapons we've had in the war on terrorism," he said.
The Cato Institute has questioned the law's impact on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protecting citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment, guaranteeing due process. Dempsey suggested that Congress needs to ask more questions of such legislation, including a Patriot II Act reportedly being drafted in the U.S. Department of Justice. "Whenever a new proposal comes forward, we need to ask the question, 'how is this going to make us safer?'" he added. "It's incredible how little this question was asked in the fall of 2001, when this telephone book-sized legislation was presented. What in here would have prevented 9/11?"
In addition to the Patriot Act or another counterterrorism bill, Dempsey also questioned the effectiveness of the data mining of huge private databases, as proposed under the Department of Defense's Total Information Awareness research program and the Transportation Security Administration's proposed second version of the Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS II). It's easy for Amazon.com to predict book-reading behavior because it has millions of customers to compare against each other, but law enforcement agents don't have millions of terrorists to use as predictors of terrorist behavior, Dempsey said.
Lynch suggested Congress, instead of expanding law enforcement powers, should pump up the
"The things that we call our civil liberties are not what is wrong with our society," Dempsey added. "Not only do they not hinder our antiterrorism programs, but actually respect for civil liberties, a concept of checks and balances -- these are the things that help us develop an effective counterterrorism program."