Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Should you be afraid of the Patriot Act, Part II

A little while back, I blogged about should you be afraid of the Patriot Act?

In a series of posts, I want to explore various provisions that are the controversional provisions in the Act. Today, let's talk about Section 218, the so called FISA section. Section 218, amends and expands FISA. The Foreign Intelligence Survelillance Act, was a bargain struck in 1978 by Congress to allow searches without traditional warrants in what was believed to be a small amount of cases.

Since the Patriot Act, the number of FISA approved searches have increased dramatically. According to a Slate article:

"The FISA court approved 1,228 applications for warrants in 2002, up from 934 in 2001 and 1,012 in 2000. (The number of warrants issued was consistently below 1,000 throughout the '90s.) When asked by the House Judiciary Committee in 2002 how many of these warrants met the "significant purpose" standard but would have failed to meet the "primary purpose" standard, the DOJ hedged, saying they'd kept no statistics on the distinction."

The Government can now investigate any body quite freely without letting them know that they are being monitored. If you were investigated, you might not ever know unless you were prosecuted using information gathered with a FISA warrant.

The intent of Section 218 was to help the Government with foreign intelligence. As it stands right now, there is nothing to prevent Section 218 from being used on US citizens...maybe you, maybe me. We might not ever know. Some civil liberties protection should be built into this Act.


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