Patriot Act and Domestic Spying 

Patriot Act and Domestic Spying

I for one don't know what the Patriot Act says, or how it would affect civil liberties in the U.S.

It counts for something when Orin Kerr says this about the Senate's failure to reauthorize the legislation (link via Instapundit):

For those of us who think of the Patriot Act as actual legislation rather than a symbol of the Bush Administration, this is rather puzzling stuff. The dirty little secret about the Patriot Act is that only about 3% of the Act is controversial, and only about a third of that 3% is going to expire on December 31st. Further, much of the reauthorization actually puts new limits on a number of the controversial non-sunsetting provisions, and some of the sunsetting provisions increased privacy protections. As a result, it's not immediately obvious to me whether we'll have greater civil liberties on January 1, 2006 if the Patriot Act is reauthorized or if it is allowed to expire.

On the other hand, Kerr also says: "My sense is that there is still lots of ready room for compromise; for example, the restrictions on sneak-and-peek warrants in the reauthorization are really pretty weak. They can (and should) be strengthened, and it seems unlikely that strengthening them would impact any terrorism cases."

And then we find out Bush has been authorizing electronic eavesdropping on Americans.

I guess the big question is why Bush didn't simply apply for search warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which already allows federal authorities to take short cuts around some of the Fourth Amendment search and seizure protections. Josh Marshall is working on this.

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