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Lawmakers Cave to FBI in Patriot Act Debate


Lawmakers Cave to FBI in Patriot Act Debate
Powerful Senate leaders on Thursday bowed to FBI concerns that adding privacy protections to an expiring provision of the Patriot Act could jeopardize “ongoing” terror investigations.
By David Kravets | Wired

The Patriot Act was adopted six weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, and greatly expanded the government’s power to intrude into the private lives of Americans in the course of anti-terror and criminal investigations. Three provisions are expiring at year’s end.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the committee chairman, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) introduced last-minute changes (.pdf) that would strip away some of the privacy protections Leahy had espoused just the week before. The Vermont Democrat said his own, original proposal of last week could jeopardize ongoing terror investigations.

“All of us are mindful that threats against American safety are real and continuing,” Leahy said at the hearing . “I’m trying to introduce balances on both sides.”

He was discussing one of the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act — Section 215. That allows a secret court — known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court or FISA court — to authorize broad warrants for most any type of records, including those held by banks, libraries and doctors.

The Leahy-Feinstein amendment, which is likely to be adopted by the committee and sent to the full Senate next week, does not require the government show a connection between the items sought under a Section 215 warrant and a suspected terrorist or spy. Read more.

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