A lot has been said and written about the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act”, commonly known as USA PATRIOT Act, but they are quite diverse interpretations —some biased—, mainly because the whole Act is written on 300 pages of legalese. Recently I found the Electronic Frontier Foundation page about such Act, which sums it up in the following points (as far as why should we care):
The law dramatically expands the ability of states and the Federal Government to conduct surveillance of American citizens
The Government can monitor an individual’s web surfing records, use roving wiretaps to monitor phone calls made by individuals “proximate” to the primary person being tapped, access Internet Service Provider records, and monitor the private records of people involved in legitimate protests.
PATRIOT is not limited to terrorism
The Government can add samples to DNA databases for individuals convicted of “any crime of violence.” Government spying on suspected computer trespassers (not just terrorist suspects) requires no court order. Wiretaps are now allowed for any suspected violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, offering possibilities for Government spying on any computer user.
Foreign and domestic intelligence agencies can more easily spy on Americans
Powers under the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have been broadened to allow for increased surveillance opportunities. FISA standards are lower than the constitutional standard applied by the courts in regular investigations. PATRIOT partially repeals legislation enacted in the 1970s that prohibited pervasive surveillance of Americans.
PATRIOT eliminates Government accountability
While PATRIOT freely eliminates privacy rights for individual Americans, it creates more secrecy for Government activities, making it extremely difficult to know about actions the Government is taking.
PATRIOT authorizes the use of “sneak and peek” search warrants in connection with any federal crime, including misdemeanour’s.
A “sneak and peek” warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to enter private premises without the occupant’s permission or knowledge and without informing the occupant that such a search was conducted.
The Department of Justice, with little input from Congress and the American people, is developing follow-on legislation
The Domestic Security Enhancement Act (nicknamed Patriot II) — which would greatly expand PATRIOT’s already sweeping powers.
I also found a very interesting article over Slate, writen by Dahlia Lithwick and Julia Turner on September 8th, 2003 that, albeit being 4 pages long, explains key points of such Act in a very plain and simple way. You ought to browse over and read it, since it is quite enlightening and as I said, easy to read.
Even though my “readership” is not that diverse and rather small, I would be interested to know your opinion —whether you have read the Slate article (or others) or not— or feedback — if you have read it — about this matter. It is my believe that USA PATRIOT Act is too flawed to be kept in existence. I believe it must sunset. What do you think?