An unlikely coalition of liberal civil-rights advocates, conservative libertarians, gun-rights supporters, and medical privacy advocates are objecting to key parts of the USA Patriot Act, says the New York Times. Keeping the law intact “will do great and irreparable harm” by allowing the government to investigate people’s reading habits, search their homes without notice and pry into their personal lives, said Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman who is leading the coalition. Barr voted for the law after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks but has become one of its leading critics. The shift reflects the growing unease among some conservative libertarians over the expansion of the government’s powers in fighting terrorism.
Bush administration officials affirmed their strong support for the law as an indispensable tool in tracking, following and arresting terrorist suspects. President Bush has prodded Congress to extend critical parts of the law that are set to expire at the year’s end. Opponents, calling themselves Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, will focus on three provisions of the law that let federal agents conduct “sneak and peek” searches of a home or business without immediately notifying the subject of such searches; demand records from institutions like libraries and medical offices; and use a broad definition of terrorism in pursuing suspects.