They can demand any records about you from phone and internet companies with just a letter. No judges, no warrants, no checks or balances. Nice and neat, eh? And any of the companies are immune from recourse if they just give it all up on you.
Oh, as an interesting sidenote, the ENTIRE Massachusetts Congressional Delegation just voted AGAINST giving the feds these powers.
This is when I'm happy that the ACLU has some money and influence to make some noise. This is bad stuff...
One thing we do know is that the people being targeted for such spying are not just the "bad guys." Recent targets of government spying have included journalists reporting on stories skeptical of the administration, whistle-blowers critical of the government, peace activists, elected officials, and others whom prosecutors determine - without oversight by a court - to be worth "investigating."
Once prosecutors get this kind of power, they will use it. Since the Patriot Act expanded the power of the FBI to issue secret national security letters - another form of administrative subpoena - the government has used the power more than 200,000 times. It's hard to know the exact number, since this government snooping is done in secret, without judicial oversight and with a gag order attached. But two Inspector General reports have revealed widespread abuse and mismanagement of this federal subpoena power.
I'm sure there will be a much higher level of restraint at the state level, where professionalism rates a few notches higher. (/sarcasm)
I think I'll look up the addresses of my representatives and send them a note asking for their positions on this. Maybe you could, too. Representatives here. Senators here.