Monday, June 6, 2011

The Patriot Act Goes Rogue

Tom Tomorrow
As an editorial in the New York Times notes, "enhanced surveillance powers" granted to the federal government under the Patriot Act were renewed by Congress for another four years without any meaningful attempt "to carefully re-examine the provisions, trim back excesses, and add safeguards to protect civil liberties."  As discussed here and here, these provisions are dangerously overbroad and susceptible to abuse.  They permit roving wiretaps on terrorism suspects, examination of  library records without having to show relevance to a terrorism investigation, and surveillance on suspects with no known ties to a foreign power or recognized terror groups. 

Senator Patrick Leahy has submitted an amendment which, as the Times, summarizes, "would add several safeguards, most notably enhanced auditing and oversight of how the powers are being used."  This needs to be passed immediately.  In addition, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have claimed that the DOJ "secretly interpreted the Patriot Act to allow domestic surveillance activities that many members of Congress do not understand."  This warrants serious review that should have occurred before the provisions were renewed. 

Tom Tomorrow, in his latest comic (click on the "Read Tom Tomorrow" badge on the right column of the blog for the full strip), shows us what will happen if we fail to rein in these excesses of our perpetual War on Terror.


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