national security letters

10 Years of Patriot Act

It was ten years ago that President Bush signed the Patriot legislation into law.  If you wanted to find a textbook example of how not to make law, review the history of this law.  First, toss dozens of legal proposals together into a giant “package” and resist any effort to unpack it and hold separate votes.  Second, unveil the package at the last minute so members of Congress will not have an opportunity to study it.  Third, call it the “Patriot Act” so that any person voting against it will have to consider television ads declaring his/her opposition to the Patriot law.  Fourth, have the

‘I resent being conscripted as a secret informer for the government.’

The people who receive “national security letters” from the FBI are basically conscripted into serving as secret informers for the government.  Some of those served happily comply and turn over whatever information the government is seeking, and sometimes even more.  Others resent the conscription and the impact it has on their lives.  Here’s an excerpt from an op-ed by Nick Merill, the president of a small internet access and consulting firm, about his experience:

The Latest ‘Intelligence Gap’

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. The Washington Post reports that the National Security Agency has halted domestic collection of some type of communications metadata—the details are predictably fuzzy, though I’ve got a guess—in order to allay the concerns of the secret FISA Court that the NSA’s activity might not be technically permissible under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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