Saturday, December 31, 2005

Debating the Patriot Act

NPR has some great background segments on the Patriot Act called Debating the Patriot Act. From the site:

"The Senate has rejected attempts to reauthorize key surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act, dealing a major setback to the Bush administration. The 16 provisions in question, including those authorizing secret searches of records and roving wiretaps, are set to expire Dec. 31. The House approved the provisions' renewal with some modifications, but Senate opponents said those changes didn't go far enough to protect civil liberties."

Worth checking out to get a good idea of the background and what's coming down the pike.

Investigation launched into leak of NSA spying

The CBC (The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) reported on December 30 that the US Justice Department is launching an investigation to determine if President George Bush ordered a secret eavesdropping program aimed at American citizens.

According to the CBC article, The New York Times:

"...reported earlier this month that, over the last three years, NSA has monitored the e-mails, telephone calls, and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people inside the U.S. without warrants."

President Bush has defended the program stating that only people with a "clear link" to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations. Read more about this story here.

Friday, December 30, 2005

NSA & cookie debacle

CNN reported that the NSA left banned cookies on computers of people who visited the NSA website.

According to the CNN article, the White House's Office of Management and Budget prohibits federal agencies from using persistent cookies unless there is a compelling need. A senior official must sign off on any such use, and an agency that uses them must disclose and detail their use in its privacy read the privacy policies on those gov't websites folks if you worry about cookie use.

Better yet, regularly delete all cookies from your computer. Read more about cookies on

(Cookie picture from

Should you be worried about the Patriot Act?

Most people haven't read the extremely long act, but if you haven't you probably should. If you want a quick and dirty summary, check out this article at Slate. While section 215, often called the "library provision," has garnered probably more attention than any other portion of the act, the federal letters are probably more important.

According to a recent Washington Post article, the FBI now issues some 30,000 national security letters each year. These letters can be used to gather records, such as telephone call logs and financial documents.

If I were to worry over any portion of the Act, I would spend some time reading Section 505. EFF says 505 should sunset. Others say the letters allow the FBI to focus their investigations.

Bush signs Patriot Act reauthorization

As reported in the Miami Herald, Bush signed an extension for the Patriot Act for 30 days. This is significant because many aspects of the Act were going to expire at the end of this year.

Patriot Act

This blog attempts to present unbiased information about the Patriot Act. This is harder than I first thought, since a simple Google search brings up search results that have groups active in the discussion about the Patriot Act.

To get started, it's probably a good idea to brush up on exactly what the Patriot act is. You can read about it at the Thomas website, that is hosted by the Library of Congress:

Incidentally, the Thomas website is a great place to find legislative information.