Group backs Senate renewal of anti-terrorism law

A coalition of groups representing civil libertarians, gun owners and physicians on Wednesday issued a last-minute plea to congressional negotiators to accept the Senate-passed version of a bill to reauthorize a 2001 anti-terrorism law.

The USA PATRIOT Act was enacted shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sixteen provisions of the law are set to expire by the end of this year. Both chambers have passed versions of reauthorization legislation, but they have significant differences. The Senate measure contains language that would implement stricter oversight over the FBI's terrorism surveillance and investigatory activities.

Documents recently made available to the public show that FBI lawyers have been investigating 13 cases of surveillance abuses. Those are cases where FBI agents allegedly spied on suspects without obtaining the proper permissions and oversight needed. The information emerged as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

The results of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit undermine the Justice Department's argument throughout congressional hearings this year that lawmakers do not need to implement more mechanisms to oversee FBI surveillance. The department argues that there has been no evidence to prove that agents have abused their powers.

House and Senate negotiators had been scheduled to work on reconciling the different versions last week. But House leaders have delayed even naming conferees.

Staffers from both chambers have been gathering informally to discuss details of the bill. Justice's representatives have been attending those meetings.

"The only reason that they are in the meetings is not to negotiate but to answer questions about the use of law enforcement authority," said Terry Shawn, a spokesman for House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

But news of Justice's presence in the pre-conference meetings angered some coalition members. Michael Ostrolenk, the director of government affairs for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, said Justice's attendance is disturbing.

"We find that very, very disturbing, and members who took an oath vowing to observe the separation of powers should immediately call for the withdrawal of these [department] officials from the meetings," he said.

Justice officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.