Wednesday, December 16, 2009

House Delays Patriot Act Spy Vote

David Kravets writes on Threat Level:

The House on Wednesday tabled for two months legislation reforming U.S. surveillance law, a move that delays a collision with a competing Senate version.

The move, which is expected to be followed by the Senate within days, extends provisions of the Patriot Act that are expiring at year’s end. The act, hastily adopted six weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, greatly expanded the government’s ability to spy on Americans in the name of national security.

A key difference between the House and Senate packages concerns the standard by which the FBI may issue so-called National Security Letters — although Wednesday’s vote prolongs the time for more backroom negotiations. Reforming NSL powers is a key bone of contention in the Patriot Act debate, even though it is not one of the three Patriot Act provisions expiring Dec. 31.

NSLs allow the FBI, without a court order, to obtain telecommunication, financial and credit records relevant to a government investigation. The FBI issues about 50,000 NSLs annually, and an internal watchdog has found repeated abuses of the NSL powers.

More here.


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