I’m going to make a wildarsed guess and suggest that the Federal Government is doing a nationwide search to find out everyone who is buying large amounts of certain kinds of beauty products. And those people are likely now under investigation as potential terrorism suspects.
I base that on three details that came out of the Senate Judiciary Hearing on PATRIOT Act Reauthorization.
First, at the start of the hearing, DiFi claimed that the investigation of Najibullah Zazi is the largest terrorism investigation since 9/11. Whether that’s hyperbole or not, she’s claiming that the FBI is doing more in the wake of the Zazi arrest than it did after all those false scares stemming from Bush’s illegal wiretap program, all those false scares arising out of torturing Abu Zubaydah, and all the scares hyped up around election time. She’s claiming this thing is huge.
Second, DiFi and Pat Leahy went through Leahy’s proposed renewal to the PATRIOT Act and made some changes–to make sure that current investigations are not hampered by any changes proposed. Significantly, she appears to have taken out this language (I haven’t been able to get a hold of the substitute amendment yet) which would have required investigators to have some connection between a person and a suspected terrorist before they could collect "tangible information" on them.
(A) a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records or other things sought–
‘(i) are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities; and
‘(ii)(I) pertain to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power;
‘(II) are relevant to the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or
‘(III) pertain to an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power; and
That suggests they’re getting business records and whatnot pretty broadly and using them to find targets for further investigation.
Now, of the Dems who are on both SSCI and SJC, DiFi and Whitehouse agreed that putting that language in the bill would hamper ongoing investigations (presumably the Zazi one, given DiFi’s comments), whereas Feingold disagreed that it would.
Interestingly, Feingold pointed out that SJC unanimously approved such language in 2005, the last time they reauthorized PATRIOT, and DiFi said, then, that the relevant language was required to prevent fishing trips. DiFi’s answer to that is that something has changed since then that makes such language a problem.
Now, I suggested that the federal government was investigating those who bought certain beauty products because that is one of the key pieces of evidence they have against Zazi:
In that period, Mr. Zazi and his associates allegedly scoured beauty supply shops and checked home improvement stores to get the ingredients for explosives favored by al Qaeda and similar to those used to bomb commuter trains and a bus in London in July 2005, killing 56. Among the products Mr. Zazi and his associates purchased — in some cases while being recorded on video — were "Liquid Developer Clairoxide" and "Ion Sensitive Scalp Developer," authorities said.
So if this investigation is as big as DiFi says it is, and if it does rely on Section 215 as currently written…
(2) shall include— (A) a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation (other than a threat assessment) conducted in accordance with subsection (a)(2) to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, such things being presumptively relevant to an authorized investigation if the applicant shows in the statement of the facts that they pertain to— (i) a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power; (ii) the activities of a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; or
(iii) an individual in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power who is the subject of such authorized investigation; and
Then all they would have to do is assert that anyone buying this particular cocktail of chemicals (or products containing those chemicals) could be presumptively related to activities of a foreign power. That is, if you buy these chemicals it may be safe to assume (or the FBI might be claiming it is safe to assume) you’re doing so to build an al Qaeda-related bomb.
Now, again, this is just a wildarsed guess, but it would explain everything we know about Section 215 and DiFi’s refusal to require more specific language in the section. And I’m not really sure how I feel about this beauty-product related terrorist profiling, if that is indeed what they’re doing.
But I’m guessing this is the kind of thing that Senator Feingold wishes Americans knew about before the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.