The Obama Administration wants to extend controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, including federal snoops' ability to conduct roving wiretaps, access business records and monitor so-called "lone wolf" terrorists.
The stance could anger civil rights groups and critics on both the right and left who have encouraged President Obama to scrap the post-Sept. 11 law, which they feel infringes on the rights of citizens. As a candidate, Obama, a former professor of Constitutional law,said legal institutions must be updated to deal with the threat of terrorism, but in a way that preserves the rule of law and accountability.
From 2004 to 2007, the business records provision was used 220 times, usually in combination with requests for phone records. The lone wolf provision was created to conduct surveillance on suspects with no known link to foreign governments or terrorist groups. It has never been used. The roving wiretaps provision is aimed at allowing investigators to monitor calls by suspects who change their cell phones, without investigators having to go back to court for a new court authorization. That provision has been used an average of 22 times a year, officials said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing next week on the Patriot Act.