Thursday, September 02, 2004

what the PATRIOT act means for writers

yes, it affects all of us, not just criminals and baddies. and even though congress passed this nasty and not so little piece of work without actually reading through it, that doesn't mean that we should put our heads in the sand and pretend everything is fine here in the land of the free (or not so free). POETS & WRITERS features an article by kay murray about some of the issues that PATRIOT raises for writers.


In a nutshell, the act gives federal law enforcement agencies (for example, the FBI, Justice Department, U.S. Attorneys) and foreign intelligence surveillance agencies (the CIA, NSA, Pentagon, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services [USCIS, formerly known as Immigration and Naturalization Service or INS], Secret Service) more tools and greater leeway to spy on citizens (and legal aliens) in national security and criminal investigations. It does so in the following ways (among others):

• Makes it much easier for domestic law enforcement to use tools like roving wiretaps and phone taps
• Lowers the standard needed to convince a court to issue search warrants and subpoenas (probable cause to believe a crime is being committed or planned is no longer needed)
• Greatly expands the scope of third- party records subject to subpoena
• Permits domestic and foreign intelligence agencies to share information gathered about citizens more easily
• Allows individual district courts to issue nationwide search warrants and wiretap orders
• Permits agencies to spy—even to exercise a search warrant without notifying the person being searched
• Expands the type of information subject to surveillance to include e-mail and other online activity
• Forbids citizens subject to surveillance to challenge it in court except after the fact if they are charged with a crime"