Who Knew? PATRIOT Act up for Renewal This Month

Did you hear that the PATRIOT Act is up for re-authorization? No? Well, perhaps the US intelligence services can still keep a secret.

President George W. Bush signed the PATRIOT Act into law on October 26, 2001. Nearly a decade later, some of its the most noxious provisions have burrowed their way deep into our legal system.

A year ago, President Obama signed a bill extending three provisions of the original Patriot Act. Last week Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced another extension of those provisions, triggering what's sure to be a bipartisan effort to continue to deny Americans their civil liberties.

The bill starts with so-called "roving wiretaps" that allow the government to spy on a nebulous array of individuals and devices, without specifying any of them ahead of time. The FBI could, with a single search warrant, raid every house or office that an individual suspect has visited over an entire year -- every single place, whether or not the residents themselves are suspects.

Then there's the eerily-named "lone wolf" provision, which lets the government apply the full power of the special courts created to deal with foreign spies against anyone who the government alleges is "preparing to attack." You don't even have to commit a crime to get these super-powered courts targeting you -- the Justice Department says that just visiting a flagged website would be enough!

But worst of all is the infamous "Section 215". This incredible provision allows the government to take whatever they want -- your phone records, medical records, email history, whatever -- without having to show you're suspected of a crime, or even relevant to an investigation! But it gets worse -- not only can the government just search through your personal records whenever they feel like it, but everyone involved is under a gag order to never let you know that you're being spied on -- and to ensure that you can never challenge the order in court. The government could be looking through your emails right now and you'll never even know.

The ACLU has a quick-and-dirty overview of some of the problems with these provisions over here.

Together, these provisions make a mockery of our civil liberties -- letting the government spy on whomever they want, for any reason, without ever letting them know or giving them a chance to challenge the order in court. There's a reason that even after 9/11, these provisions were seen as a bridge too far. But now it's almost full decade later, and Republicans are leading the way to extend them yet again!

Enough is enough -- will you join us in demanding that Congress finally let these provisions expire?