Expanded Patriot Act to Be Proposed

Associated Press
Thursday, May 19, 2005

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is working on a bill that would renew the USA Patriot Act and expand government powers in the name of fighting terrorism, letting the FBI subpoena records without permission from a judge or a grand jury.

Much of the debate in Congress has concerned possibly limiting some of the powers in the anti-terrorism law, which was passed 45 days after Sept. 11, 2001.

But the measure being written by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) would give the FBI new power to issue administrative subpoenas, which are not reviewed by a judge or a grand jury, for quickly obtaining records, electronic data or other evidence in terrorism investigations, according to aides for the committee who briefed reporters yesterday.

Recipients could challenge the subpoenas in court, the aides said, and the administration would have to report to Congress twice a year on how it was using the new power.

The administration has sought this power for two years but so far has been rebuffed by lawmakers. It is far from certain that Congress will give the administration everything it wants this year.

Roberts's planned bill also would make it easier for prosecutors to use special court-approved warrants for secret wiretaps and searches of suspected terrorists and spies in criminal cases, the committee aides said.

Eight expiring sections of the law that deal with foreign intelligence investigations would become permanent, they said.

So, too, would a provision that authorizes wiretapping of suspected terrorists who operate without clear ties to a particular terrorist network.

The aides spoke on the condition of anonymity because Roberts has yet to make the bill's contents public.

Opponents of expanding the Patriot Act said Roberts's proposal would amount to an expansive wish list for the administration.

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