The Patriot Act Abused — as Predicted

It’s almost forgotten now, but when the so called Patriot Act was enacted in the terror-swooning days following 9/11/01 there was opposition, protests and warnings.  The hastily drawn up and hastily passed bill dramatically enlarged law enforcement’s use of surveillance without the customary court orders Americans had assumed were their constitutional birthright.  Now, and not for the first time, it turns out the fears of government overreach were fully justified.  Charlie Savage reports in the New York Times — with out the prominence it deserves:

For more than two years, a handful of Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee have warned that the government is secretly interpreting its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming if the public — or even others in Congress — knew about it.

On Thursday, two of those senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado — went further. They said a top-secret intelligence operation that is based on that secret legal theory is not as crucial to national security as executive branch officials have maintained.

The senators, who also said that Americans would be “stunned” to know what the government thought the Patriot Act allowed it to do, made their remarks in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. after a Justice Department official last month told a judge that disclosing anything about the program “could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”

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