|For Immediate Release
February 14, 2011
Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, (202) 225-3951
“These types of provisions have been used by domestic law enforcement agencies for years to apprehend typical criminals. It makes no sense to let law enforcement officials use a tool to investigate a drug dealer, but then deny that same authority to intelligence officials investigating terrorists … If Congress fails to extend these expiring provisions, it will be on our shoulders if the intelligence needed to stop the next attack is not collected.”
House Extends PATRIOT Provisions
Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today called on the Senate to take up the House’s extension of the PATRIOT Act to prevent national security provisions from expiring at the end of February. The bill passed by a vote of 275-144.
The expiring tools give investigators in national security cases the ability to conduct “roving” wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The House-passed bill extends the provisions until December 8, 2011, giving Congress time to conduct a thorough review before considering a long-term extension.
Chairman Smith: “Numerous terrorist attempts in the last ten years have been thwarted thanks to the intelligence-gathering tools provided in the PATRIOT Act and other national security laws. If Congress fails to extend these expiring provisions, it will be on our shoulders if the intelligence needed to stop the next attack is not collected.
“These types of provisions have been used by domestic law enforcement agencies for years to apprehend typical criminals. It makes no sense to let law enforcement officials use a tool to investigate a drug dealer, but then deny that same authority to intelligence officials investigating terrorists.
“These are common sense provisions that prevent terrorist attacks, protect the American people, and preserve civil liberties. A temporary extension of these provisions is the only way to provide House Members the time to study the law, hold hearings, consider amendments, and conduct markups. Without an extension of these authorities, we will forfeit our ability to prevent terrorist attacks.”
Background Information on Expiring Provisions:
Section 206 of the USA PATRIOT Act provides for roving surveillance of targets who take measures to thwart Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance. Without roving wiretap authority, investigators would be forced to seek a new court order each time they need to change the location, phone, or computer that needs to be monitored, wasting valuable time.
Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to apply to the FISA court to issue orders granting the government access to any tangible items in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and clandestine intelligence cases. The USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 significantly expanded the safeguards against potential abuse of Section 215 authority, including additional Congressional oversight, application requirements and judicial review. According to the most recent information from the Administration, this provision has been used more than 230 times to keep us safe.
And Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 offers a definition for a ‘lone wolf’ agent of a foreign power and allows a non-United States person who ‘engages in international terrorist activities’ to be considered an agent of a foreign power under FISA. This provision closes a gap in FISA that, if permitted to expire, could allow an individual terrorist to slip through the cracks and endanger thousands of innocent lives. When FISA was originally enacted in the 1970s, terrorists were believed to be members of an identified group. That is no longer the case and we need to respond accordingly.