GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: The Fourth Amendment is good for business and essential for democracy by Susan Herman, ACLU President and author of, "Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy."
Post-9/11 surveillance measures have made it far too easy for the government to review our personal and business records, telephone and e-mail conversations, and virtually all aspects of our lives.
- Under the so-called “library provision” of the USA PATRIOT Act, the government can demand that custodians of records – including librarians, schools, social work institutions, and internet service providers (who, in these days of cloud computing, have access to a mind-boggling array of information about us) – turn over those records without having to explain to a court why they want those records, or whether the person who is the subject of the records has done anything suspicious.
- Under the expanded “National Security Letter,”the FBI and other agencies can demand some records from telecommunications and financial services providers without any court order at all and then gag the recipients.
- Patriot Act amendments let the government spy on Americans using a Cold War era statute designed for tracking the covert activities of Soviet agents.