Anti-terror law negotiators still show differences

The House and Senate conferees appointed to negotiate over expiring provisions in a 2001 anti-terrorism law met officially for the first time Thursday afternoon to reconcile their differences.

Group members reiterated many points they have espoused during the year. Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, complained that the legislation would not adequately provide the Justice Department with the necessary tools to track terrorists.

"We live in a world where radical Islamic terrorists try day in and out to kill Americans and their allies," Roberts said during the meeting. "I am concerned that the U.S. Congress appears reluctant to give our intelligence committee the tools they need."

Roberts earlier this year sought to include in the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization measure new language enabling the FBI to demand information from terrorism suspects by issuing administrative subpoenas. Those subpoenas do not require oversight from the judiciary. The House and Senate versions of the legislation approved rejected the idea.

Early in the negotiations, other conferees expressed support for the Senate version of the legislation, which contains more checks on government power and the FBI's investigatory abilities than the House version.

Although the meeting was billed by the House Judiciary Committee press office as the first of perhaps several meetings to hash out differences, some congressional aides expressed pessimism that many other substantive changes would be made in the next few days. They noted that some staffers struck a tentative deal to adopt the Senate version of the legislation.

Among other things, the Senate version would reinstate higher legal standards for FBI agents who want to secretly access library and business patrons' transactional records. The legislation would require a factual showing that the suspects have some connection to terrorism. Currently, agents only have to tell businesses and libraries that the records are relevant to an investigation.

The Senate version also would allow recipients of secret subpoenas known as national security letters to access lawyers and challenge the requests in court.

The House Judiciary Committee's top Democrat, John Conyers of Michigan, supports the Senate version, which does not include provisions on death penalties like the House version. He urged conference members to vote for the Senate version.

"History is rife with leaders reluctant to do the right thing and opted to do what is easy," he said. "I ask my colleagues to join me and do what is right, and make sure that civil liberties are protected once again."

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.