Are you being watched? Secret surveillance on the rise

Washington Post: U.S. Steps Up Secret Surveillance: FBI, Justice Dept. Increase Use of Wiretaps, Records Searches. This is pretty disturbing:

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Justice Department and FBI have dramatically increased the use of two little-known powers that allow authorities to tap telephones, seize bank and telephone records and obtain other information in counterterrorism investigations with no immediate court oversight, according to officials and newly disclosed documents.

The article credits the PATRIOT Act, which loosened restrictions on when these “national security letters” and “emergency foreign intelligence warrants” may be used, for the increase in use of these tactics. With no checks and balances, these powers may be the most immediate threat to civil liberties out there.

Do I exaggerate? I don’t think so. Remember, the secret court that oversees the requests for these warrants has said that the Justice Department isn’t doing a good job of justifying them. And much of the case for war was made with dubious information. Can the Justice Department be trusted to process the information it already has? If not, why should we grant them a blanket right to reach into our bank and telephone records?

Qui custodiet custodies?