Patriot Act’s Wiretapping, FISA Provisions Quietly Come Up For Renewal

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At the end of next month, two of the Patriot Act’s controversial provisions — one authorizing “roving” wiretapping and one allowing the government to pull all sorts of records and electronic communications from U.S. citizens — will expire.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has already introduced legislation that would simply extend the provisions for one more year.

That would essentially be a repeat of what happened a year ago, after the provisions expired in December 2009. There was a bit of a fight from civil liberties advocates, but the measures were renewed for another year at the end of last February.So far, it’s unclear whether there’d be much of a fight in Congress this year. Rogers doesn’t have any sponsors yet, but Democrats in both the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to extend the provisions last year, with legislation that was sponsored by Democrats.

The provisions are Section 206 of the 2005 Patriot Act renewal, which allows authorities to, with court approval, wiretap multiple phones of one person — so-called “roving surveillance.” The other is Section 215, which allows authorities to subpoena all sorts of records under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. That section also prohibits those who receive an order to turn over records, be they bank statements, library records, Internet records, etc., from telling anyone about the subpoena — including the person whose information they are disclosing.

Not surprisingly, the ACLU and others don’t think much of these provisions. But will any lines be drawn in Congress? That remains to be seen.

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