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.