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May 20, 2011
Parts of Patriot Act extended 4 years
A deal has been reached that would extend several controversial parts of the Patriot Act for another 4 years. The extensions deal with the FBI's ability to track terrorists using modern communications devices, and make it easier for the feds to get permission to surveil foreign nationals.
New York Times:
Under the deal, two sections of the so-called USA Patriot Act and a third provision from a related intelligence law would be extended, without any changes, until June 1, 2015. The provisions had been set to expire later this month. In case you were wondering, our Fearless Leader refused to take a clear stance on changes to the extensions:
The sections allow investigators to get "roving wiretap" court orders allowing them to follow terrorism suspects who switch phone numbers or providers; to get orders allowing them to seize "any tangible things" relevant to a security investigation, like a business's customer records; and to get national-security wiretap orders against noncitizen suspects who are not believed to be connected to any foreign power.
Some lawmakers had proposed tightening the circumstances when the F.B.I. could use the surveillance powers. Others - including the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont - had proposed requiring greater auditing and public reporting about their use.
The Obama administration asked Congress to renew the provisions, while taking a coy stance about whether any particular changes were a good idea. Some Republicans, meanwhile, argued that the provisions should be made permanent without any modifications. The value of these law enforcement tools have been shown time and again over the last decade. It's good that Congress is not tearing itself to pieces over these provisions as it once might have. Even Democrats are getting the message that when employed judiciously, these tools can prevent attacks and roll up terrorist cells.