Surprise! The Feds Are Still Abusing The Patriot Act

Ever since the overreaction to 9/11 caused the Patriot Act to be created as a vehicle to fight terrorism by means of eroding civil liberties, the FBI and Justice Department have been abusing it — from using national security letters to get information unrelated to national security, to using it to go after drug traffickers to using it to fight the homeless. And now there’s something going on in the shadows, about which two senators are raising a vague alarm. They both sit on the Intelligence Committee, which oversees the FBI, among other agencies, and while they can’t tell us exactly what’s going on, they sent a letter to the US Attorney General asking him to set the record straight about some thruthiness.

At the heart of the matter is secrecy: secret rulings made by a secret court that can’t be made public due to national security concerns. What the two senators are saying is that the government is interpreting these secret rulings as allowing them to get private information on people that aren’t threatening national security — like possibly you, the most intelligent of readers. So again the FBI is abusing the Patriot Act to get information unrelated to national security.

Note that the senators aren’t necessarily disputing the secret ruling that possibly allows all this — they just want the actions to be public knowledge. They’re also warning that secret interpretations of secret rulings made by secret courts amount to secret law, which implies that we’re witnessing the birth of a secret shadow government.

From The New York Times, via NPR


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