Monday, November 21, 2005

Fix the Patriot Act

Who could disagree with Jeff Jacoby?

As I write, congressional negotiators are wrangling over a bill to amend parts of the Patriot Act and settle the fate of 14 sections due to expire on Dec. 31. Most of the fixes being pushed are not unreasonable. One would require the government to show that information it seeks under Section 215 — which allows investigators to obtain records, documents, and other ''tangible things" — is genuinely relevant to an antiterrorism investigation. Another would make clear that those who are served with a Section 215 order have the right to consult with attorneys and challenge the order in court. Section 213, under which investigators (with judicial approval) can delay notice of a search for ''a reasonable period," would be amended to specify that ''reasonable" normally means within seven to 30 days. And the FBI's sweeping power to issue ''national security letters" ordering the production of customer records — and prohibiting the recipient from discussing it with anyone — should be curbed. Recipients who find such an order or gag rule oppressive ought to have the right to seek relief in federal court.

Public policy SHOULD reflect wisdom which is permanent. There are less-than-honorable people who could take office and fill bureaucracies.

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