Congressional leaders agreed on Thursday to extend three expiring provisions of the controversial PATRIOT Act for four years.
Sources told the Associated Press that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner agreed to call for a vote to extend the provisions before May 27, when they are set to expire, with as little debate as possible.
The legislation would extend the “roving wiretap” provision, “lone wolf” measure and “business records” provision until June 1, 2015.
The three provisions allow law enforcement authorities to conduct surveillance without identifying the person or location to be wiretapped, permits surveillance of “non-US” persons for whatever reason, and authorizes law enforcement to gain access to “any tangible thing” during investigations.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has said he will oppose any extension of the PATRIOT Act and other senators have vowed to amend the legislation to ensure American’s civil liberties are protected, making support for the extension unclear.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed an amendment to the bill that would require the government to describe the target of a roving wiretap “with particularity.”
“Roving wiretaps, which do not require the government to specify the place to be bugged, are designed to allow law enforcement to track targets who evade surveillance by frequently changing phones,” he explained. “Before the PATRIOT Act, roving wiretaps were only permitted for criminal investigations.”
“Unfortunately, the PATRIOT Act did not include sufficient checks to protect innocent Americans from unwarranted government surveillance,” Sen. Durbin continued. “Under current law, the FBI is not required to ascertain the presence of the target of the wiretap at the place being wiretapped, as it is for criminal wiretaps.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also introduced legislation in February to narrow the PATRIOT Act’s “business records” provision.
“Government agents should not be able to collect this sort of information on law abiding American citizens without showing that they have at least some connection to terrorism or other nefarious activities,” he said.
Wyden’s bill would force law enforcement to demonstrate that the records were in some way connected to terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities before gathering the information.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also sought to amend the PATRIOT Act by increasing judicial oversight of government surveillance powers.
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