Bipartisan Senate Group Would Ease USA Patriot Law


Wiretapping, search warrants, records seizures, and other law enforcement tactics allowed by the USA Patriot Act would be scaled back under a bipartisan bill set to be introduced today in the Senate, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The bill Security and Freedom Enhancement Act, or SAFE, is sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Larry Craig, R-Idaho, Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Ken Salazar, D-Colo. They announced the proposal yesterday after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said would accept some modifications to the current law but urged that all its major provisions be renewed to effectively fight terrorism.

The SAFE Act would forbid roving wiretaps on unidentified subjects and permit secret searches only if they are used to investigate a set list of crimes. Current law includes what critics call a “catch-all phrase” that could be interpreted to include other crimes as well. The bill would also change the so-called “library provision.” While it does not specifically mention bookstores or libraries, critics say the government could use it to subpoena library and bookstore records and snoop into the reading habits of innocent Americans. Gonzales said the measure had been used 35 times but never to obtain library, bookstore, medical or gun sale records.


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