House and Senate negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on revisions to the USA Patriot Act, says the Washington Post. It would limit some government’s powers while requiring the Justice Department to provide a better accounting of secret requests for information on ordinary citizens. The agreement leaves intact controversial provisions of the law, such as government access to library and bookstore records, and would extend only limited new rights to the targets of such searches.
Democrats say the administration largely got what it wanted –a major break after lawmakers challenged the White House in recent days on the conduct of the Iraq war, budget policies, and tax cuts. The deal would make permanent 14 Patriot Act provisions that were set to expire at the end of the year. Three other measures — including one allowing law enforcement agents access to bookstore and public library records — would be extended for seven years. The compromise would weaken House-approved death penalty provisions that caused concern in the Senate. If a jury could not agree to impose the death penalty on a convicted terrorist, House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wi.) had hoped to empower prosecutors to impanel a new jury.