A few of the USA Patriot Act provisions will expire at the end of the year leaving Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) to decide whether they should be reauthorized, amended or allowed to expire, CongressDaily reported today.
Cardin, the recently tapped chair of the Senate Judiciary terrorism and homeland security subcommittee, will review sections that allow the government to force Internet providers to provide information about their users without a court mandate, afford the government flexibility in divulging what places it uses to conduct surveillance and authorize the government to perform court-sanctioned surveillance and searches against non-U.S. citizens suspected of having ties to terrorist groups but who do not have connections to any known terrorist organization. The Maryland senator told CongressDaily that a review of these provisions is a “very high priority.”
“The Department of Justice was not challenging [the activities] and the Congress was really not informed in an effective manner where [members] could do anything about it,” he told CongressDaily. “So you had secret programs going on and you had a use of power well beyond what I think Congress or the public ever thought was being used.”
A March 2008 Inspector General report concluded that there were major abuses committed under the section that authorized the government to force Internet providers to give up information on their users. Cardin told CongressDaily he has not reached a decision on what he thinks should be done with the provisions. He said he is waiting to hear the opinions of Attorney General Eric Holder on the provisions.
“If I’m told by this administration that these tools are important in order to keep America safe and they can be done in a way that is protective of our civil liberties, then I’m going to be working for a way to extend these powers because I want to make sure that the department has the tools they need,” Cardin told CongressDaily.