In case I’ve not beat this drum hard enough, more thoughts on the bad law called the USA PATRIOT Act, this time from the NYT Editorial pages. From it:
Congress passed the Patriot Act hurriedly after the Sept. 11 attacks, with little time for reasoned discussion. Many of the most aggressive provisions were written to be phased out after a few years, to ensure that a future Congress would be able to reconsider them in calmer circumstances. If that were really happening, Congress would not be preparing to authorize the continued use of “national security letters,” an investigative tool that gives the F.B.I. sweeping power to riffle through ordinary Americans’ private records.
Unlike search warrants, national security letters do not need to be approved by a judge. The F.B.I. can issue them on its own initiative to places that hold sensitive information about American citizens, like libraries, doctors’ offices, banks and Internet service providers. The Washington Post recently reported that the F.B.I. now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year.
Update: Seems that the extensions to the Act, which were almost pushed through this past week, were shelved yesterday, though the issue will have to be dealt with next month.