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House Panel Backs Patriot Act Amendments
Posted By Andrew Ramonas On November 5, 2009 @ 10:28 pm In News | Comments Disabled
The House Judiciary Committee endorsed legislation today that would reauthorize two of three expiring Patriot Act provisions that expanded the government’s powers in counter-terrorism investigations.
The panel voted 16 to 10 along party lines to allow the “lone wolf” provision to sunset at the end of the year and reauthorize the records and “roving wiretap” powers. The panel also voted to put more restrictions on so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to obtain evidence without a court order.
Here’s what The USA Patriot Amendment Act of 2009  as reported out of committee would do to the expiring Patriot Act provisions:
Panel Republicans sharply criticized the legislation as harmful to national security. Republicans also expressed frustration that Conyers did not hold a full committee public hearing after the bill was introduced Oct. 20.
A House Judiciary subcommittee held  a hearing with National Security Division Deputy Assistant Attorney General Todd Hinnen on the expiring provisions before the legislation was introduced. The full panel held a closed-door hearing with National Security Division chief David Kris on the sunsetting powers last Thursday.
“I am disappointed we did not have a public hearing on this bill,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said yesterday when the bill markup began. “The committee should not take up such important legislation without first fully examining the bill and receiving substantive input from the administration’s national security experts.”
The committee’s minority members held a forum  on the legislation Tuesday. Bush administration officials Rachel Brand, who headed the Office of Legal Policy; and Will Moschella, who was an Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs, spoke against the bill at the Capitol Hill meeting.
“The bill before us may not be perfect. Few bills are,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) said said yesterday when the bill markup began. “But it greatly protects the privacy and freedom of Americans and preserves at the same time critical surveillence powers.”
The Justice Department has said it supports the reauthorization of all the expiring Patriot Act provisions, but it has declined to comment on any changes to the powers. The legislation endorsed  by the Senate Judiciary Committee extends all the sunsetted provisions, while putting tighter controls on the powers.
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