"The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters — one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people — are extending the bureau’s reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.
So, basically, a field superviser in the FBI can issue a "national security letter" with your name on it, and on that basis they can go to anyone with whom you have had an information "transaction" and demand the record of that transaction or any others. Having done that, the FBI can forbid their "informant" permission to ever tell anyone about it.
The "Patriot Act?" This is patriotism?