Two months ago, when Congress set out to consider renewal of the USA Patriot Act, civil libertarians hoped they could rein in aspects that they felt went too far. Now, supporters of an enhanced law appear to be making headway as they push to give the FBI new powers, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Yesterday, President Bush called for making permanent the 16 provisions set to expire at the end of the year. Bush spoke in Columbus, Ohio, where two years ago local truck-driver Lyman Faris pleaded guilty to charges of aiding terrorism and conspiracy.
On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved renewal and expansion of the Patriot Act. One new provision would allow FBI agents to write subpoenas without going before a judge under some circumstances. Though there are no documented cases of abuse under the law, civil libertarians argue that without an independent investigation, that can’t be verified. The Justice Department’s inspector general found that none of 7,000 complaints could be substantiated. “We’re relying on the department itself to tell us whether they have abused the law,” says Lisa Graves of the American Civil Liberties Union.