I happened across this article, Ashcroft rips 'Patriot' critics and I have to stand against the AG on this one. I think it is always a bad idea to pass 'knee-jerk' legislation. It violates a lot of freedoms and rarely actually addresses the problem it is supposed to solve.
Ashcroft's comments came after the release of a memo he wrote disclosing that the Justice Department has never used a controversial section of the Patriot Act that allows authorities in terrorism investigations to obtain records from libraries, bookstores and other businesses without notifying the subject of the probe.
Just because you haven't used provisions of a bad law doesn't mean that you won't in the future. I don't know everything about the Patriot Act, but I do know that opening doors like this make them very hard to close. I know they already do similar things in RICO and Drug related cases. I still don't like it. With today's interlinked society, your buying habits are closely scrutinized and studied. Why? So you can be targeted with personalized advertising, to get you to stay brand loyal or to jump ship. Every time you use a check or credit card, a record is made with your name and info, to be kept on file at that place of business for who knows how long. To have a barcode on your receipt means that store is tracking you by name. They can tell you what you buy, how much, how often and if you prefer store brand over brand name or not. They know which credit cards you use, and can guess how many you have in total based on statistical averages. Use a frequent shopper card? You're in it up to your eyeballs now. I could go to my local grocer, drop my FSC in the basket, and just walk the aisles, and 90% of my shopping would automatically fall into my basket, based entirely on my past shopping habits. I'm bipolar, not paranoid. I know all about the data mining being done on me every day because I used to be a data miner. Because of my financial and emotional position, I don't make impulse purchases anymore. Every dollar spent, every transaction is checked and verified internally before I actually spend the money. If it is necessary, I know where, when and how to make a "transaction free" purchase. And the answer isn't just paying cash. To allow law-enforcement access to those records for any reason without a court order is scary to me. The tools are there for police to find data that didn't exist 10 years ago. There are commercial tools that document sales that didn't exist 10 years ago. I don't mind the tools, I mind how easy it is to get permission to use them. To be able to call an investigation "Terrorism related" and get a pass on any meaningful control scares the daylights out of me. The depth that the governmental anal probes can reach get a little deeper every year. If law-enforcement on any level decided to perform a a maximum effort investigation on me, very little outside of my own thoughts are safe. Considering the content of this blog, even my thoughts can be scrutinized. Scary stuff.