[JURIST] Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website], ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asked US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to clarify the steps being taken to protect the privacy of American citizens after a Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] subpoena for information about internet searches [JURIST report] from Google and other Internet search engines was made public. In a letter [PDF text] to Gonzales released Wednesday, Leahy asked about the types of information being sought and how the department intends to use the information, noting "strong public concern over the government's monitoring of Internet communications and warrantless eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of American citizens." The Senator said the collection and potential use of such information by government agencies raised serious concerns about "excessive government surveillance that may intrude upon important privacy interests and chill the exercise First Amendment-protected speech and associational interests." The DOJ is seeking the information in order to prepare a case defending the 1998 Child On-Line Protection Act [text]. America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft have complied with similar subpoenas. The DOJ's request to force Google's compliance with the subpoena is pending before a California court. Reuters has more.