FBI Would Gain Power
In Patriot Act Revision
The FBI would have expanded powers to subpoena records without the approval of a judge or grand jury in terrorism investigations under a USA Patriot Act revision approved 11 to 4 yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Some senators who voted to move the bill forward said they will push for limits on the new powers the measure would grant to law enforcement agencies.
"This bill must be amended on the floor to protect national security while protecting constitutional rights," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).
Ranking Democrat John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) supported the bill overall but said he will push for limits that would allow such administrative subpoenas "only if immediacy dictates."
Rockefeller and other committee members, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), are also concerned that the bill would grant powers to federal law enforcement agencies that could be used in criminal inquiries rather than in intelligence-gathering ones.
Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said the bill places new checks and balances on the powers it would grant, including allowing challenges to such administrative orders. He called the Patriot Act "a vital tool in the war on terror" and lauded the Democrats who voted for it in spite of misgivings.
The bill, which would extend expiring parts of the Patriot Act, must also be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For the Record
* The House Appropriations Committee approved a $408 billion defense measure that would shift some of the Pentagon's priorities for funding major weapons systems. The measure would also provide an initial $45 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, even though President Bush has not made such a request. The House hopes to vote next week on the bill, which would provide money for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The Senate is working on its own version.
* The Government Accountability Office found that New York failed to follow Congress's instructions on $44 million in post-Sept. 11 aid and should give the money back or get lawmakers to pass legislation allowing the expenditure. The House is also considering whether to take back $125 million in workers' compensation aid related to the 2001 terrorist attacks because the state has not spent it.
* The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued subpoenas to the Pentagon asking for more information by Monday on the decision to close military installations. Members of Congress and state officials have complained about the slow release of base-closing information.
* The National Association of Letter Carriers said it collected more than 71 million pounds of food in its 13th annual "Stamp Out Hunger" drive last month and delivered it to food banks and shelters.
-- From News Services