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Patriot Act slouches toward renewal

Same ugly beast, slightly new make-up.
 
 
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Alberto Gonzales basically admitted in a letter yesteray that the government is spying on more Americans, and in more ways, than even those revealed inthe NSA wiretapping scandal. So why oh why did the Senate decide yesterday to end debate and move toward a renewal of a Patriot Act that looks disturbingly like the last problematic Patriot Act, with just three cosmetic changes?

TalkLeft breaks down a few of the key problematic provisions either left intact or expanded in the new Patriot Act:

*a national federal police force. Here is the text to Section 605 which would create one.
*the anti-Meth Act
*New drug crimes and death penalty eligible offenses
*Sneak and Peek searches that are more about the drug war than the terror war.

To break it down even further, here's Senator Feingold, who is likely to end up being the only Senator voting against the bill when it comes to a full vote today:

Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain secret court orders in domestic intelligence investigations to get all kinds of business records about people, including not just library records, but also medical records and various other types of business records. The Patriot Act allowed the government to obtain these records as long as they were "sought for" a terrorism investigation. That’s a very low standard. It didn’t require that the records concern someone who was suspected of being a terrorist or spy, or even suspected of being connected to a terrorist or spy. It didn’t require any demonstration of how the records would be useful in the investigation. Under Section 215, if the government simply said it wanted records for a terrorism investigation the secret FISA court was required to issue the order -- period. To make matters worse, recipients of these orders are also subject to an automatic gag order. They cannot tell anyone that they have been asked for records.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.