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AP Is Reporting House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement today to extend the USA Patriot Act, the government's premier anti-terrorism law, before it expires at the end of the month. But a Democratic senator threatened a filibuster to block the compromise. Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced that the negotiating committee had reached an agreement that would extend for four years two of the Patriot Act's most controversial provisions authorizing roving wiretaps and permitting secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Those provisions would expire in four years unless Congress acted on them again.
News is reporting that six senators will try to block passage of the
Patriot Act because it's renewal is not including minimal protections for
civil liberties by requiring a judge to review the secret warrants the
FBI is using to force libraries and other institutions to provide patron
and customer information to the government law enforcement agency. The
Senators also complained the law does not include forcing the government
to tell American citizens within seven to 30 days that their homes or businesses
were secretly searched.
The six American Senators wrote a letter to the Senate Judiciary committee
and Senate Intelligence committee about their concerns. The three Republicans,
Larry Craig (Idaho), John Sununu (New Hampshire) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska),
and the three Democrats, Dick Durbin (Illinois), Russ Feingold (Wisconsin)
and Ken Salazar (Colorado), had previously sponsored some of the changes
that provided the modest civil liberties that are now being removed in
a House-Senate ironing out of the Patriot Act renewal.
The AP Reports House and Senate negotiators struck a tentative deal on the expiring Patriot Act that would curb FBI subpoena power and require the Justice Department to more fully report its secret requests for information about ordinary people, according to officials involved in the talks.
The agreement, which would make most provisions of the existing law permanent, was reached just before dawn Wednesday. But by mid-morning GOP leaders had already made plans for a House vote on Thursday and a Senate vote by the end of the week. That would put the centerpiece of President Bush's war on terror on his desk before Thanksgiving, more than month before a dozen provisions were set to expire.
American Bar Association President Michael S. Greco Has written a Letter [PDF] to congressional leaders. He outlined his organization's concern over three specific provisions of the act under consideration by the House that the ABA feels are overly broad, undermine constitutional protections and give too much leeway to intelligence agencies collecting information. The letter follows earlier statements by the group that the legislation is "offensive" to democracy.
Congress edged closer yesterday to limiting some of the sweeping surveillance and search powers it granted to the federal government under the USA Patriot Act in 2001, including a provision that would allow judicial oversight of a central tool of the FBI's counterterrorism efforts, according to Senate and House aides. More From The Washington Post.
kathleen writes ""Barton Gellman,Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, November 6, 2005 reports: The FBI came calling in Windsor, Conn., this summer with a document marked for delivery by hand. On Matianuk Avenue, across from the tennis courts, two special agents found their man. They gave George Christian the letter, which warned him to tell no one, ever, what it said. Under the shield and stars of the FBI crest, the letter directed Christian to surrender "all subscriber information, billing information and access logs of any person" who used a specific computer at a library branch some distance away. Christian, who manages digital records for three dozen Connecticut libraries, said in an affidavit that he configures his system for privacy. But the vendors of the software he operates said their databases can reveal the Web sites that visitors browse, the e-mail accounts they open and the books they borrow. -- Read More
The New York Times has coverage of a panel of federal judges in Manhattan who raised questions yesterday about secrecy provisions in the nation's antiterrorist act, expressing concerns that the act indefinitely silences those swept up in investigations.The judges did not immediately rule on the matter. But by their questions, the judges seemed skeptical of arguments by a Justice Department lawyer who said it was within constitutional limits for the government to prevent recipients of such requests from ever speaking about them.
"The troubling aspect from my standpoint is it's without limit," Senior Judge Richard J. Cardamone said while questioning the government's lead lawyer, Douglas Letter, about the nondisclosure provision in what is known as the USA Patriot Act. "There's no end to how long you have to keep this secret."
deborah writes "Justice Ginsburg, discussing need to "act with caution", refuses to lift the gag order against the CT library group (identified as Library Connection) which has received a National Security Letter under the Patriot Act."
The Associated Press reports Some of the nation's most powerful business groups are splitting with the Bush administration over whether to restrict the anti-terror USA Patriot Act.
The business groups complained to Congress on Wednesday that the Patriot Act makes it too easy for the government to get confidential business records. That put them at odds with one of President Bush's top priorities â€” the unfettered extension of the law passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.