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Senate panel approves Patriot Act renewal

Dem-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee extends PATRIOT Act provisions

Capitol Hill Blue
October 9, 2009

Key US lawmakers passed legislation Thursday extending three key provisions of the PATRIOT Act, the sweeping intelligence bill enacted after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Backing a White House request, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the measure 11 votes to 8 to extend until 2013 three clauses that would have expired by 31 December. The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

The provisions include the “roving wiretap” clause, used to monitor mobile communications of individuals using multiple telephone lines, and the “lone-wolf” provision, which enables spying on individuals suspected of terrorist activity but with no obvious connection to extremist groups.

Lawmakers also extended the life of controversial section 215, known as the “library records provision” that allows government agencies to access individual’s library history.

The committee had earlier met in a closed-door meeting with members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community on ensuring their actions would not impede investigations already underway.

The senators also debated freeing up law enforcement actions that have been hampered by legislation and court rulings since the first program was launched by former president George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11, which enabled collecting sensitive information for years without a court order.

Republicans senators have remained critical of placing restrictions on the intelligence community, saying they should more of a free hand in the early stages of investigations.

But their Democratic counterparts have decried the fact that the provisions still do not in their view adequately respect the privacy of ordinary Americans.

Democratic Senator Russ Feingold said he feared handing a “blank check” to law enforcement agencies and criticized the Democrat-controlled committee for not passing safeguards that even Republicans supported during the Bush administration.

“Among the most significant problems is the failure to include an improved standard for Section 215 orders, even though a Republican controlled Judiciary Committee unanimously supported including the same standard in 2005,” he said in a media advisory.

“But what was most upsetting was the apparent willingness of too many members to defer completely to behind the scenes complaints from the FBI and the Justice Department, even though the administration has yet to take a public position on any of the improvements that I and other senators have proposed. … [While] I am left scratching my head trying to understand how a committee controlled by a wide Democratic margin could support the bill it approved today, I will continue to work with my colleagues to try to make improvements to this bill.”

Michael Macleod-Ball, acting director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office said the rights group was “disappointed” that further moves were not made to protect civil liberties.

“This truly was a missed opportunity for the Senate Judiciary Committee to right the wrongs of the PATRIOT Act,” he said.

“We urge the Senate to adopt amendments on the floor that will bring this bill in line with the Constitution.”

Obama Supports Renewing The PATRIOT ACT

 



Telephone Companies Are An Arm Of Government Admits DOJ

Telephone Companies Are An Arm Of Government Admits DOJ

Wired News
October 9, 2009


AT&T was the first of many telcos sued for helping the NSA spy on Americans without warrants

The Department of Justice has finally admitted it in court papers: the nation’s telecom companies are an arm of the government — at least when it comes to secret spying.

Fortunately, a judge says that relationship isn’t enough to squash a rights group’s open records request for communications between the nation’s telecoms and the feds.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation wanted to see what role telecom lobbying of Justice Department played when the government began its year-long, and ultimately successful, push to win retroactive immunity for AT&T and others being sued for unlawfully spying on American citizens.

The feds argued that the documents showing consultation over the controversial telecom immunity proposal weren’t subject to the Freedom of Information Act since they were protected as “intra-agency” records:

“The communications between the agencies and telecommunications companies regarding the immunity provisions of the proposed legislation have been regarded as intra-agency because the government and the companies have a common interest in the defense of the pending litigation and the communications regarding the immunity provisions concerned that common interest.”

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffery White disagreed and ruled on September 24 that the feds had to release the names of the telecom employees that contacted the Justice Department and the White House to lobby for a get-out-of-court-free card.

“Here, the telecommunications companies communicated with the government to ensure that Congress would pass legislation to grant them immunity from legal liability for their participation in the surveillance,” White wrote. “Those documents are not protected from disclosure because the companies communicated with the government agencies “with their own … interests in mind,” rather than the agency’s interests.”

The feds were supposed to make the documents available Friday, but in a motion late Thursday, the Obama administration is asking for a 30-day emergency stay (.pdf) so it can file a further appeal.

Read Full Article Here

Obama Pushes For Renewal of Warrantless Spying