How PATRIOT Threatens Online Civil Liberties
Under PATRIOT, civil liberties, especially privacy rights, have taken a severe blow:
- The law dramatically expands the ability of states and the Federal
Government to conduct surveillance of American citizens. The Government can
monitor an individual's web surfing records, use roving wiretaps to
monitor phone calls made by individuals "proximate" to the primary person
being tapped, access Internet Service Provider records, and monitor the
private records of people involved in legitimate protests.
- PATRIOT is not limited to terrorism. The Government can add samples to
DNA databases for individuals convicted of "any crime of violence."
Government spying on suspected computer trespassers (not just terrorist
suspects) requires no court order. Wiretaps are now allowed for any
suspected violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, offering
possibilities for Government spying on any computer user.
- Foreign and domestic intelligence agencies can more easily spy on
Americans. Powers under the existing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
(FISA) have been broadened to allow for increased surveillance
opportunities. FISA standards are lower than the constitutional standard
applied by the courts in regular investigations. PATRIOT partially repeals
legislation enacted in the 1970s that prohibited pervasive surveillance of
- PATRIOT eliminates Government accountability. While PATRIOT freely
eliminates privacy rights for individual Americans, it creates more secrecy
for Government activities, making it extremely difficult to know about
actions the Government is taking.
- PATRIOT authorizes the use of "sneak and peek" search
warrants in connection with any federal crime, including misdemeanors. A
"sneak and peek" warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to
enter private premises without the occupant's permission or knowledge
and without informing the occupant that such a search was
- The Department of Justice, with little input from Congress and the
American people, is developing follow-on legislation - the Domestic
Security Enhancement Act (nicknamed Patriot II) -- which would greatly
expand PATRIOT's already sweeping powers.
For more information
Read our Analysis Of The Provisions Of The USA PATRIOT Act That Relate To Online Activities (2001)