Seizing the Moment - Page 2

By Caron Carlson  |  Posted 2003-03-24 Print this article Print

The DSEA draft, which the Center for Public Integrity obtained and distributed, has never been officially released by Ashcrofts office.

Another provision in the draft seeks to expand surveillance powers generally, raising worries that snooping technologies such as Carnivore and the Pentagons Total Information Awareness Program would be used against U.S. citizens. In passing the Patriot Act, Congress gave the government power to obtain detailed information about an Internet users communications via a low standard of judicial review, but when it came to U.S. citizens, the new power could be used only in terrorism or counterintelligence investigations. Less than two years later, the Justice Departments proposal asks Congress to eliminate that limitation.

The DSEA would also broaden the scope of surveillance warrants and enhance the governments ability to monitor multifunction devices, such as PDAs. If the government could show probable cause that one type of communications is relevant to a crime, it would receive automatic approval to access other types of communications over the same device. For example, a warrant to listen to a persons telephone conversations would automatically authorize monitoring of the persons e-mail or faxes transmitted over the same device; a warrant to intercept e-mail or voice communications over a computer would also authorize seizing data stored on its hard drive.

Under the proposal, individuals using multifunction devices forgo privacy protections that they would receive using less advanced communications technologies. Privacy rights defenders charge that the proposal follows a trend within law enforcement to take advantage of technology to pare back privacy standards.

One of the more alarming provisions to privacy rights advocates is the establishment of a national DNA registry of terrorism suspects.

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