It looks like death was just the beginning for the never-introduced “Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003,” otherwise known as “PATRIOT II.” As the Associated Press, LA Times, and Washington Post reported last week, lawmakers are circulating draft legislation that breathes new life into some of the most threatening provisions in PATRIOT II. The draft legislation is meant to implement intelligence reforms as recommended by the 9/11 Commission Final Report, but goes far beyond those recommendations — including giving federal agents the power to use secret foreign intelligence warrants and wiretap orders against people unconnected to any terrorist group or foreign nation. In other words, it proposes lowering the legal standards for surveillance so that the government has the same leeway to spy on people like you and me as it does those suspected of being international agents or terrorists.
Without the requirement of a link to a foreign power, there are grave constitutional questions about whether this secret wiretap is allowed under the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, the “lone wolf” provision opens the door wide to surveillance of citizens for domestic surveillance and law enforcement purposes. Searches within the US should still presumptively be done in compliance with the Fourth Amendment.