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“Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself.”     Potter Stewart

March 26, 2009

Meet The New Big Brother, Same As The Old Big Brother

by Doug Mataconis

If you thought that the Obama Administration would bring an end to the Bush Administration’s domestic surveillance programs, you were wrong:

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III urged lawmakers yesterday to renew intelligence-gathering measures in the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, calling them “exceptional” tools to help protect national security.

The law, passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, created divisions between proponents, who said it was necessary to deter terrorism, and privacy advocates warning that it tramples on Americans’ civil liberties. Portions of the law are up for reauthorization this year.

Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee he hopes that the reauthorization of two provisions would be far less controversial than in previous years. One of those provisions, which helps authorities secure access to business records, “has been exceptionally helpful in our national security investigations,” he said.

In response to a question from Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Mueller said that his agents had used the provision about 220 times between 2004 and 2007. Data for last year were not yet available, he said.

The measure allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect’s records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the provision, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.

Another provision, permitting roving wiretaps of terrorism suspects, was used 147 times and has helped eliminate “an awful lot of paperwork,” Mueller said. In the past, authorities had to seek court approval for each electronic device carried by a suspect, from a cellphone and a BlackBerry to a home computer. But under the provision, one warrant can cover all of those machines.

So much for change we can believe in, huh ?

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2 Comments

  1. Is this particular program actually a problem? If someone is enough of a threat to justify a legitimate warrant, what scenario can you envision where it would be legitimate to eavesdrop on one of his devices, but not the others?

    Comment by Jeff Molby — March 26, 2009 @ 11:05 am
  2. “The measure allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect’s records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the provision, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.”

    The first Admendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    I do not see how the two are related. How is eavesdroppping by law enforcement against the first admendment?

    I would agree that this is bad, but you would have to look at a different source, like the fourth admendment.

    Comment by Peter — March 26, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

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