The Patriot Act: Section 215, July 21, 2005 · The Patriot Act widened the government's surveillance powers in an effort to fight terrorism. But many contend it also put civil liberties at risk.

Among the act's most controversial provisions is Section 215. It allows investigators broad access to library, bookstore, rental car and many other records, and it prevents the recipient of such an order from disclosing the request for records. As Section 215 comes up for renewal, Taking Issue asks whether it strikes the right balance between law and liberty or needs amendment.

In Depth: Section 215 Explained

Heather MacDonald

Let Investigators Do Their Job

Heather MacDonald

"Preemptive terror investigations cannot be conducted in the news media. Telling a Mohammad Atta that the government wants to see his airline reservations is a sure-fire way to torpedo any chance of unraveling his plot."

Heather MacDonald is a lawyer and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

James Dempsey

Checks Are Needed to Protect Rights

James Dempsey

"Intelligence investigations are broader and more secret, and are not subject to after-the-fact scrutiny. We need to build in protections at the beginning."

James Dempsey is the executive director of the Center for Democracy & Technology. He previously served as assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights.


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