Internet and telecommunication companies are seeing a surge in law enforcement requests to snoop on subscribers in the seven months since Congress passed a sweeping law to combat terrorism. Privacy advocates fear this snooping may be harming civil liberties. They say the Patriot Act expands police power without expanding oversight. The new laws also apply to other crimes beyond terrorism.
The law enforcement community says they needed stepped-up electronic surveillance to keep up with sophisticated criminals. Privacy groups agree terror must be stopped but worry government checks of e-mail and other forms of communication also may capture information from innocent citizens.