2007-09-19 / Opinions

Protecting our rights

Should the FBI be able to force your Internet service provider to turn over all your Internet records and then prohibit your provider from telling you about it?

The USA Patriot Act says it can, but a federal district court judge in New York has ruled that the Constitution requires more consideration of citizens' rights.

Judge Victor Marrero struck down some parts of the Patriot Act dealing with national security letters.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation can use these letters to force companies to give up records on their customers. They are used most often to get individuals' records from telephone companies, Internet service providers, banks and credit card companies. There is no real standard of proof for issuing such a letter, and the agency doesn't have to get a court's approval. On its own initiative, the agency can issue the letter and gain the records it wants.

... Federal officials should have to get a court to issue or approve these letters. The Constitution protects us from searches without a court-ordered warrant. That protection is in the Constitution for a reason. It gives citizens the assurance that we don't have to trust the people in charge of the government. We can trust in the system of protections the Constitution gives us.

The courts should insist on maintaining that role. They shouldn't let Congress and the White House circumvent the court's oversight and citizens' constitutional protections.

- Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C.

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