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Most Americans are unlikely to find themselves part of an investigation involving terrorism. But they should know these new “tools” already are creatively used by U.S. attorneys from one end of the country to the other to investigate very ordinary criminal acts. Citizens don’t realize the privacy and constitutional safeguards they once took for granted already are being eroded.

There are those who perhaps overstate the threat, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. That’s why Congress should draw the line between the “tools” law enforcement really needs and those in the law enforcement bureaucracy would simply like to possess. At the very least, Congress should resist the temptation to automatically approve the enforcement sector’s newest requests without at least ascertaining it really needs the powers it already has and is using them as Congress believed they would be used when they were approved.

Paul M. Weyrich is chairman and chief executive officer of the Free Congress Foundation. David Keene is chairman of the American Conservative Union.