The so-called Patriot Act was whipped through Congress in the days after Sept. 11, 2001, and signed a month and a half after the terrorist attacks as an answer to that threat.
Most of the law's 153 provisions seek noncontroversially to help government act against terrorism and other crime, but some are the focus of civil-liberties concerns. Such features beg for further examination in a less panicky legislative climate, shielded from the clamor of the presidential campaign.
The same goes for new proposals to expand the reach of the Patriot Act with yet more powers for federal agents seeking terrorists. Law enforcement might indeed require better tools to do their job. But the implications for American freedom and privacy must also be weighed. ...
That extension of counterterrorism law would increase the government's power to obtain personal records secretly without judicial review, limit judicial discretion over secret evidence and loosen wiretapping safeguards. These are questions affecting all of our rights and not just those of our enemies that cry for unhurried legislative thought.
San Francisco Chronicle - May 5
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