Congress is close to limiting some of the sweeping surveillance and search powers it granted to the federal government under the USA Patriot Act in 2001, including a provision that would allow judicial oversight of a central tool of the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts, reports the Washington Post. Under a tentative deal worked out by congressional staff members, a conference committee set to begin meeting today probably will stick to the outlines of a Senate bill that sets new restrictions on the government. The agreement would not include additional subpoena powers sought by the Justice Department and some Republicans.
The House approved by voice vote a nonbinding resolution that calls for a four-year extension of some Patriot Act provisions rather than the 10-year deadlines included in House legislation earlier this year. Overall, 16 provisions of the law are set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress renews them. If these and other compromises are approved, it would mark another significant setback for the weakened Bush administration as it battles the GOP-controlled Congress over the limits of its powers related to terrorism and the Iraq war.