USATODAY.com - With only a letter, FBI can gather private data: "
TROVE OF INFORMATION
Federal laws expanded by the USA Patriot Act of 2001 give anti-terrorism and counterintelligence investigators access to an array of consumer information beyond what the FBI can obtain through National Security Letters. Consumers seldom learn that their records have been reviewed unless they are prosecuted.
Some examples of records accessible to investigators:
� Driver's licenses, hotel bills, storage rental agreements, apartment leases and other commercial records. The Patriot Act permits investigators to obtain warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
� Cash deposits, wire and digital money transfers, casino credit records, unusual bank transactions. The Patriot Act expanded the list of financial institutions required to file 'suspicious activity reports' to include money-transfer businesses. Suspicious activity reports jumped from about 170,000 in 2000 to nearly 1 million last year, according to the Treasury Department.
� Patient business records and personal health information. The Patriot Act allows access to patient business records through a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, under rules that took effect in 2003, allows release of health information for national security purposes.
By Richard Willing, USA TODAY
When the FBI office in New Haven, Conn., received an e-mail in February 2005 that looked like a terrorist threat, agents followed a familiar routine. They asked the service provider, a group of Connecticut public libraries, for the real name, street address and Internet logs of the sender.
They had no search warrant, grand jury subpoena or court order. Instead, a loc"