Beware of VICTORY Act, Privacy Group Warns

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - A consumer watchdog group is sounding an alarm over legislation that hasn't even been introduced yet.

The National Consumer Coalition's Privacy Group recently read a draft copy of the VICTORY Act, which "has some chilling implications for consumer privacy," the group said.

VICTORY stands for Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations Act of 2003.

Attorney General John Ashcroft plans to promote both the VICTORY Act and the USA PATRIOT Act on his ten-day, 20-stop tour of America, which begins on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

According to the NCC's Privacy Group, the VICTORY legislation is "a grab-bag of enhanced police-state powers."

For example, the group says, one section of the bill gives the Attorney General the power to issue "administrative subpoenas" in investigations stemming from an extremely broad definition of "terrorism." (According to NCC, an "administrative subpoena" is like a search warrant automatically issued by the clerk of court, except there's no need to have a judge sign off on it.)

The NCC Privacy Group says that under the VICTORY Act, the Justice Department would have the power to subpoena consumer data from a business.

"Section 504 specifically mentions subpoenaing consumer records from telecommunication companies, Internet service providers, and financial service firms such as banks," the group said in a press release.

The NCC says other provisions of the bill would nullify consumer-business privacy contracts, by allowing companies to ignore privacy agreements with consumers and still be immune to civil litigation by customers.

The VICTORY Act supposedly will be subject to revision over the August recess, the NCC Privacy Group notes. The group says it will be watching closely when the VICTORY Act is introduced later this year.