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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


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