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Justice Department releases new Patriot Act data ahead of hearings

[JURIST] Ahead of key Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] hearings [meeting notice; JURIST report] Tuesday on whether Congress should extend the USA PATRIOT Act [PDF text], the Justice Department has released new data suggesting that some of the extraordinary powers accorded it under the Act have been used sparingly. For instance, according to the DOJ, section 213 warrants [DOJ press release] - allowing federal agents, with a court order, to enter a suspect's home secretly and search for evidence without immediately notifying the person of the search - have been used only 108 times between April 1, 2003 and January 31, 2005. DOJ officials say that the secret warrants represent less than 0.2 percent of all search warrants utilized by law enforcement. The number of warrants issued is on the rise, however, up from 47 for the period between October 2001 and April 2003. The DOJ maintains a special USA PATRIOT Act website. Additional House hearings on extension of expiring Patriot Act powers are scheduled for later this week. The New York Times has more. The Senate Judiciary Committee offers a live webcast of its Tuesday Patriot Act hearing, beginning at 9:30 AM ET.

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