The Obama administration is supporting controversial government surveillance methods in the USA Patriot Act but leaving room for tweaking the law to protect Americans’ privacy, the Washington Post reports. The Justice Department asked key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to act swiftly on legislation that would protect the government’s ability to collect a variety of business and credit card records and to monitor terrorism suspects with roving wiretaps.
Provisions set to expire Dec. 31 allow investigators to monitor through roving wiretaps suspects who may be trying to escape detection by switching cellphone numbers, obtain business records of national security targets, and track “lone wolves” who may be acting alone on behalf of foreign powers or terrorist groups. The government has not used the lone wolf provision. Obama’s approach to electronic surveillance has been closely watched since he shifted positions during the presidential campaign, voting to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act over the objections of liberals in his party. The law gave telecommunication companies immunity from lawsuits by Americans who argued that their privacy had been violated in an electronic data collection program.