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PATRIOT Act: Act!

By - November 09, 2005

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CDT, among many others, is urging all of us to take action on the PATRIOT Act, a terrible piece of legislation that I’ve written about before. I also featured this Act in the book. From it:

….under the PATRIOT Act, the government now

has far broader rights to intercept your private data communica-

tions—a reinterpretation of the Fourth Amendment, which states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, pa-

pers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall

not be violated.”

The PATRIOT Act certainly puts a new spin on the word

“search.” But this is to be expected, right? After all, if the government

has probable cause and a search warrant, nothing has really changed,

has it? As all good civics students know, the Fourth Amendment con-

tinues: “no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported

by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be

searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Under PATRIOT, prior interpretations of these constitutional

presumptions don’t necessarily hold true. To summarize, the PA-

TRIOT Act holds that your private information can now be inter-

cepted and handed over to government authorities not via a search

warrant tendered to you, but rather via a request to your ISP, your

community library, or another service provider. That means that

should the government decide it wants access to your information, it

no longer needs to serve a search warrant on you; it can instead go to

the company that you use—be it Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL,

or any number of others.3 In the past, the government could cer-

tainly tap your phone or search your effects if you were a suspect in

a crime. But under the PATRIOT Act, not only can the government

tap a suspect’s clickstream; the standards for who the government

can tap and how it informs a suspect have loosened as well.

Portions of the Act are under review by the House and Senate. From the CDT alert:

A “conference committee” of Congressional

leaders will begin meeting this Thursday, November 10 to reconcile the

Senate and House versions of the PATRIOT Act Reauthorization bills. At

this point, it is pretty clear that PATRIOT will be renewed, but the

Senate bill contains some important checks and balances to protect

against governmental abuse. And the
Washington Post recently drew

attention to government overreaching under the PATRIOT Act.
(reg required)



According to the Post, the FBI uses the PATRIOT Act to issue more than

30,000 national security letters demanding from businesses sensitive

records about their customers. The Post also reported that the FBI no

longer destroys data collected through such sweeps, even if it is

irrelevant to the investigation at hand. Instead, the article states,

the FBI has been ordered to keep the data, even when it is clear it is

on innocent Americans, and “to develop ‘data mining’ technology “to

probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of

electronic files.”

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  • http://searchquant.blogspot.com Chris Zaharias

    The Patriot Act gives gov’t powers that the founding fathers didn’t intend it to, but conversely the founding fathers never contemplated a situation where nuclear proliferation could lead to hundreds of thousand of Americans being vaporized on our home soil.

    I, for one, am for giving the gov’t every single power they’re asking for and nothing less. I trust my government and am confident they are acting to protect me, not hurt me. There is much I stand to lose, however, if the Patriot Act is weakened, namely my national security.

    Why such a rush to assume that the risk of Patriot Act abuse outweighs the benefits in terms of averting future 9/11′s?

  • MikeM

    Whatever it takes to keep my family and community safe I am all for.
    As for leaning on my civil rights I have nothing to hide or to be ashamed of. I commit no crimes and bother no one.
    On another level I am far more scared of Google and other search engines and what they are collecting about me.
    Frankly I trust the government much more than any private enterprise.

  • http://www.seobook.com/ aaron wall

    >namely my national security.

    Is that what those thousands of soldiers in Iraq recently died for?

    >terrible piece of legislation

    You’re being too kind and politically correct John.

    >I trust the government much more than any private enterprise.

    I used to, up until I worked in the military for a while. Shady.

  • http://www.andilinks.com/ Andi

    Unfortunately the threat from foreign terrorists is greater than the threat from the government at this time in history.

    Be wary of the government, but if you are too wary you will help the terrorists. There is no risk-free choice.

  • http://www.optimale-ernaehrung.de Andre

    For me the patriot act is a direct intervention of privacy, and i can´t accept that without a confirmed suspicion.