GOP Seeks Quick Passage of New Patriot Act

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
Fri Dec 9, 7:22 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Republican leaders will press for passage next week of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism, but a Senate filibuster looms on a measure that liberal and conservative critics alike say is a threat to individual liberties.

"Just as the Senate did four years ago, we should unite in a bipartisan way to support the Patriot Act, to stand up for freedom and against terror," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Thursday as GOP negotiators from the House and Senate sealed their White House-backed compromise.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, issued a statement saying the measure would aid "in the detection, disruption and dismantling of terrorist cells before they strike."

Key provisions cover the ability of law enforcement officials to gain access to a wealth of personal data, including library and medical records, as part of investigations into suspected terrorist activity.

The measure provides a four-year extension of the government's ability to conduct roving wiretaps - which may involve multiple phones - and to seek access to many of the personal records covered by the bill.

Also extended for four years is the power to wiretap "lone wolf" terrorists who may operate on their own, without control from a foreign agent or power. An earlier, pre-Thanksgiving stab at compromise had called for seven-year extensions of these provisions.

Yet another provision, which applies to all criminal cases, gives the government 30 days to provide notice that it has carried out a search warrant.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, described the final product as "not a perfect bill but a good one," and credited the White House with helping bring the House and Senate negotiators together.

But lawmakers in both parties attacked the measure. "This battle is not over," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who complained that the bill lacked "adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms." He vowed to do everything he could, including a filibuster, to stop the bill from passing. [...] Read the rest at: http://tinyurl.com/7fz7u

Read a statement by Senator Feingold on the Patriot Act Conference Report at Truthout on December 8: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/120805A.shtml

© Virginia Metze


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