Net effect: antiterror eavesdropping
In the seven months since the passage of a sweeping law to combat terrorism, Internet and telecommunications companies have seen a surge in law enforcement requests to snoop on subscribers.
Privacy advocates fear that expanded police power under the recent Patriot Act - combined with lax oversight and increased cooperation between the government and private sector phone network and Internet gatekeepers - may be stomping on civil liberties.
The new laws do not apply just to terrorism but to other crimes as well.
Law enforcers say they need stepped-up electronic surveillance to keep up with sophisticated criminals, stressing that such efforts are targeted - they're not trolling every server for e-mails mentioning Osama bin Laden.
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