Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Powering Down the Patriot Act

In the wake of another damaging report detailing the bureau's abuse of its data-gathering power, Congress is seeking to limit the use of national security letters

Go to Mother Jones original
There's a move afoot on Capitol Hill to rein in some of the vast powers conferred upon government investigators by the Patriot Act, the infamous, hastily crafted law written in response to the 9/11 attacks. New legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress intended to curb the FBI's ability to collect private data on virtually anybody using a tool called a national security letter (NSL). The bills come in the wake of yet another damaging FBI inspector general report on the bureau's abuse of its expanded authorities.

"The privacy of American citizens is a core value in our society," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former federal prosecutor and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at an April 23 hearing on the FBI's use of NSLs. "I think this is our next really big civil liberties issue."

And addressing that issue may start with a bill, sponsored by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), which would both drastically limit the circumstances under which these secretive orders are issued and strictly regulate how the information obtained is handled by the FBI.


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