A document drafted by Attorney General John Ashcroft called the “Domestic Security Act of 2003,” which has been leaked to the media, calls for laws that will expand the Patriot Act to give the government the right to read private e-mail messages and monitor web surfing. “I think that the average web surfer is not going to notice a thing. That’s what is so scary,” says Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Your health, financial and travel information could be monitored by tracking your activity on the internet. Among other things, the new law would allow the government to obtain your credit report without a subpoena, and allow the use of electronic surveillance and wire taps after Congress declares a national emergency (which exists now), instead of only after a declaration of war.
It would also make the use of encryption to conceal a crime a felony offense, punishable by at least five years in prison. This means you could spend major time in jail for doing something minor like illegally downloading music.
However, the New York Times of Feb. 12 reports that even a sympathetic Congress finds this a serious breach of personal freedom, so the Defense Department has agreed not to use these new powers against Americans, but presumably only against foreigners living in the U.S. Lt. Cmdr. Donald Sewall of the Pentagon says, “It’s not a program that snoops into American citizen?s privacy.”
But Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania says (of the Pentagon), “They’ve got some crazy people over there.”
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