January 14, 2007

Not So Very Bothersome

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon and the CIA are sending "noncompulsory" requests to credit card companies asking that the transactions and records of civil and military employees be turned over for examination. These "national security letters" have a thirty-year pedigree, but their strength was enhanced by the USA PATRIOT Act.

This is not so bothersome to me because 1) the inquiries seem to be limited to individuals whose activities produce some sort of objective reason to believe that there might be terrorism or espionage going on, and 2) people who work for the military necessarily give up some privacy rights for national security purposes; that goes along with holding a security clearance or being in the service.

It would be nice, particularly for the civilian workers, if some kind of judicial review were obtained, such as what happens when a search warrant is issued. The law should allow for warrants to issue without advance knowledge to the person whose records are being searched. But given the combination of the diminished privacy interests at stake, an apparenlty limited scope of inquiry, and the need for swift, secret gathering of information, it looks okay to me.

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