An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service
January 15, 2007
In the case of the Pentagon, especially, according to The New York Times, this is "part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering."
The vehicle for this is a national
security letter. Unlike the FBI's national security letters,
compliance by a bank or lender is voluntary. But like the FBI's,
it doesn't require a warrant or a subpoena to issue, simply the
OK of a superior.
Artist Mike Lane, Cagle Cartoons
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The agencies say the authority is longstanding - if so, not many were aware of it - and it was enhanced by the USA Patriot Act. The problem with the military and the CIA doing domestic snooping is that it is done outside of public view, court review and congressional scrutiny.
There seem to be no restrictions on the use or dissemination of the information and there are plans, the Times said, to incorporate the information into a counterintelligence database.
The nation need think back only as far as the Nixon administration to know that a government with the power to snoop will almost assuredly abuse it sooner or later. And the military has already been found to have compiled dossiers on Iraq war protesters.
The Constitution seemed pretty
clear - although maybe not as clear as we thought - that searches
require a warrant. Since the government sees the powers to skip
this requirement emanating from the murky recesses of the Right
to Financial Privacy Act and the USA Patriot Act, maybe Congress
should go back and reiterate precisely what it meant.
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