A June 10 news story, "Bush Campaigns to Extend Patriot Act," discussed an ABC News/Post poll about support for extending existing constitutional authorities to terrorism investigators. However, the poll questions regarding "mail cover" -- the process by which a copy of the outside of a sealed letter is provided to FBI investigators -- and administrative subpoena authority were inaccurate.
The administrative subpoena authority contained in the Senate intelligence committee's bill provides terrorism investigators with a tool similar to the one that has been used by federal criminal investigators for years. Poll results might have been significantly different if Americans knew that the authority has been upheld for more than 50 years by the Supreme Court, that Congress has granted the authority 335 times, and that the attorney general can use an administrative subpoena to investigate drug trafficking, child pornography, health care fraud and other crimes, but not terrorism.
Moreover, the FBI, when conducting a lawful terrorism investigation, already can obtain from the U.S. Postal Service a copy of the information on the outside of an envelope under current postal regulations. Mail cannot be opened without a court-approved warrant. Thus, the committee's bill does not "expand" FBI authority. The committee proposal improves congressional control and oversight of a regulatory authority that has existed for more than 30 years.
Americans certainly should consider and debate these issues. But such a debate should be based on accurate information.
U.S. Senator (R-Kan.)
The writer is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.