David Kirkpatrick

October 12, 2009

A sad day for civil liberties

Last week the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to extend the Patriot Act past the sunset provision slated to go into effect this year.

From the link:

Supporters of the Patriot Act say it gives law enforcement important powers to track down and investigate terrorists. Without the Patriot Act, U.S. law enforcement efforts to find terrorists would be significantly harmed, members of former President George Bush’s administration argued.

But the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a digital rights group, both protested the Judiciary Committee’s decision to move the bill forward.

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Parts of the Patriot Act would expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t renew them. The Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted 11-8 to approve the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act with a handful of amendments.

One of the most controversial portions of the bill allows the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain warrantless subpoenas to get personal information from Internet service providers, telephone carriers and other businesses.

The National Security Letter (NSL) program allows the FBI, and potentially other U.S. agencies, to issue letters to businesses or organizations demanding information about targeted users or customers. E-mail messages and phone records are among the information that the FBI can seek in an NSL.