DOJ supports reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions

[JURIST] A US Department of Justice (DOJ) official told the Senate Judiciary Committee [official websites] Wednesday that the Obama administration supports the reauthorization [statement, PDF] of three provisions of the USA Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] set to expire at the end of the year. Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris [official profile] said that the administration supports renewing portions of the act that allow federal authorities to conduct "roving" wiretaps, compel the production of business, medical and library records, and designate suspects as "lone wolf" agents of a foreign power:


[T]he Department and the Administration believe that each of these three provisions provides important and effective investigative authorities. We believe that the current statutory scheme, together with the rules, guidelines, and oversight mechanisms observed by the Executive branch with respect to these authorities, safeguard Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.

Kris acknowledged recent proposals by committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) [official websites], and others to limit the use of these provisions, saying that the administration is "ready and willing to work with Members on any specific proposals you may have to craft legislation that both provides effective investigative authorities and protects privacy and civil liberties." Legislation addressing the reauthorization, introduced [WP report] by Leahy last week, would also add an expiration date [statement] for the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) [CRS backgrounder, PDF; FBI backgrounder]. DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine [official profile] detailed to the committee the results of an OIG investigation into the use of NSLs, which found that the FBI had significantly understated [statement, PDF] the number of NSL requests from 2003 to 2006. Fine noted that FBI officials had "devoted significant time, energy, and resources to correcting its errors," but that it was "too early to definitively state whether the FBI's efforts have eliminated the problems."

The 2009 expiration date on Section 215, the "business records" provision, and Section 206, the "roving wiretap" provision, were set in March 2006 when the 16 key provisions [DOJ report] of the Patriot Act were renewed and 14 made permanent [JURIST report]. Additional civil liberties safeguards built into the renewal included allowing recipients of Section 215 subpoenas to challenge the accompanying gag order. In the wake of these amendments, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] withdrew a lawsuit challenging Section 215 [JURIST report]. Despite the amendments, a federal judge ruled last year that imposing gag orders on recipients of NSLs is unconstitutional without judicial review [JURIST report]


 

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