Expiring provisions of the Patriot Act are vital to U.S. national security and should be renewed soon, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified Wednesday.
Several provisions of the law are set to expire May 27. The House has defeated an extension, while the Senate Judiciary Committee approved its legislation last week.
Mueller also asked members of the House Judiciary Committee to continue to ensure that the FBI can collect evidence without a court order. A proposal in the Senate would end that authorization. Mueller said the FBI needs “lone wolf” authority, which permits probes of suspected terrorists not aren’t linked to a specific organization or nation along with provisions that authorize “roving wiretaps” and make it easier for federal authorities to acquire tangible evidence – such as library records — as part of an investigation.
“The authorities, all of which are conducted with full-court review and approval, are critical to our national security,” Mueller said.
The FBI Director also said he opposes a proposal in the Senate that would phase out national security letters. The letters are administrative subpoenas that the FBI employs to get evidence without a court order.
Mueller said the letters help the FBI build cases. Taking them away would undermine investigations, he said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee last week endorsed legislation that would phase out the national security letters and renew the three expiring provisions. The House currently does not have a companion bill. House Democrats and conservative Republicans joined together to reject its version of a Patriot Act renewal bill over civil liberties concerns.
Last year, then-House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced legislation that would only renew the records and “roving wiretap” authorities. House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said he supports the extension of all the expiring provisions.
“It is imperative that Congress reauthorize the expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act,” Smith said. “Section 206 roving authority, Section 215 business records, and the lone wolf definition are critical to apprehending terrorists before they strike.”