Expanding PATRIOT

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Wired News reports on one less reason to give thanks:

Congress approved a bill on Friday that expands the reach of the Patriot Act, reduces oversight of the FBI and intelligence agencies and, according to critics, shifts the balance of power away from the legislature and the courts.

A provision of an intelligence spending bill will expand the power of the FBI to subpoena business documents and transactions from a broader range of businesses—everything from libraries to travel agencies to eBay—without first seeking approval from a judge.

Under the Patriot Act, the FBI can acquire bank records and Internet or phone logs simply by issuing itself a so-called national security letter saying the records are relevant to an investigation into terrorism. The FBI doesn't need to show probable cause or consult a judge. What's more, the target institution is issued a gag order and kept from revealing the subpoena's existence to anyone, including the subject of the investigation.

The new provision in the spending bill redefines the meaning of "financial institution" and "financial transaction." The wider definition explicitly includes insurance companies, real estate agents, the U.S. Postal Service, travel agencies, casinos, pawn shops, ISPs, car dealers and any other business whose "cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory matters."

Whole disturbing thing here.

[Link via Free-Market.net]

John Berlau unveiled the downside to PATRIOT provisions affecting financial transactions in the November issue of Reason.

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  1. You can always count on Congress to take another match to the Constitution. Those elderly bastards caved to terrorism back in 10/2001, markedly disfiguring the character of American freedom and doing more damage than al Qaeda and that virgin-crazy bunch ever could. I’d rather feel like a plane — even the one I was on — was going to drop out of the sky at any moment than feel as though my life will be spent watching those assclowns in Congress dismantle American freedom bit by tax-revenue-wasting bit.

  2. I?m going to give this story a big GL ?we don?t know that.? I?ve heard too much misinformation and dishonest charges being made about the first PATRIOT Act by its opponents that I?m not about to take anything that?s said at face value.

    Chicken Little might be right one of these days but that doesn?t mean I?m going to jump every time she says ?the sky is falling.?

    Let me know when Dahlia Lithwick, Orin Kerr, or someone who can address the issue in a bit more reasoned manner has a chance to look at the bill and its possible implications.

    Until then, wait, see, and think seems the best course of action.

  3. don’t worry, howard dean will end patriot and replace it with “re-regulation” which will give more power to crawl into your wallet

  4. rst,

    Part of the problem is widespread innumeracy. I figure my odds of getting killed by an Al Qaeda attack are less than getting struck by lightning; my odds of being kept under surveillance for my political views, on the other hand, are close to 100%.

    The basic problem of innumeracy is exacerbated by the tendency of suburbanites and soccer moms to respond to vicarious experience on their TV screens. Any horrific human interest story with lots of gore provokes cries of “We’ve got to do SOMETHING–for the CHILDREN!” Frankly, these days I wouldn’t be surprised if the soccer moms started agitating for authoritarian social controls in response to a soap opera plot.

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