The section 215 provision of the newly-extended Patriot Act gives the government extensive powers, which Democratic senators suggest is being used far beyond any legitimate anti-terror purpose. Photograph: Win Mcnamee/Getty Images Remember section 215? It was a notorious provision of the USA Patriot Act , renewed on Thursday , that allowed the government to snoop on what library books you'd borrowed, what videos you'd rented, your medical records – anything, really, if investigators thought it might have something to do with terrorism, no matter how tangential. I wrote about it for the Boston Phoenix in 2003, as an example of the then budding excesses of the Bush-Cheney years. Well, section 215 is back – not that it ever went away.
The world lost its goodwill toward the USA when Americans voted for George W. Bush the second time around. I don't endorse the idea that American politics should be dictated by foreign opinions but a reading of the foreign press over the last six years reveals that the first election of President Bush Jr. was largely excused around the world since no one could have known what this new president was going to do.