Reporting from Washington —
When two senators warned that the Patriot Act is being interpreted in a secret way that would alarm Americans if they knew the details, civil liberties activists could only speculate about what they meant.
The activists' fear: that the government is using the anti-terrorism law to collect vast troves of personal information, including cellphone records, on Americans who have no link to terrorism.
Congress voted overwhelmingly last week to reauthorize key provisions of the Patriot Act for four more years. President Obama signed it from France by authorizing the use of an autopen.
The Senate debate on the law featured an unusual dissent by two senators who serve on the Intelligence Committee.