Feeds

Senators propose Patriot Act limitations

Growing concern

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A bipartisan group of senators this week announced the latest in a steady trickle of legislative proposals to trim back some of the enhanced search and surveillance powers granted to law enforcement under the USA-PATRIOT Act.

Under the proposed ?Security and Freedom Ensured Act (SAFE), the FBI would no longer be able to obtain "sneak and peek" warrants allowing them to secretly enter a person's home or office, except in cases when an overt search would endanger someone's physical safety, result in a flight from prosecution, or permit the destruction of evidence.

Under current law, as modified by USA-PATRIOT, agents can keep a search secret, with a judge's approval, any time disclosure would seriously jeopardize an investigation or unduly delay a trial. As of April 1st, 2003, the Justice Department had applied for, and received, 47 such warrants.

SAFE would also cap the length of time a search could be kept secret at seven days, though a judge could repeatedly extend the blackout period in weeklong chunks. The bill also introduces a disclosure requirement that would compel the U.S. Attorney General to report to Congress every six months on the number of sneak and peek warrants the Justice Department and FBI sought and obtained.

The proposed legislation would also put limitations on the FBI's use of so-called "roving wiretap" orders, which permit agents to eavesdrop on any telephone or computer used by a suspect. The act would force the FBI to specify a particular person to be surveilled, and to ascertain that the target is at a particular location before beginning their surveillance.

Finally, the SAFE Act would put limits on the FBI's ability to obtain secret national security orders that give them access to a person's utility records, credit card purchases, medical records, and any other documents. SAFE would limit such orders to records of suspected terrorists or spies, while under current law anyone's records are fair game in a terrorism or espionage investigation. The Act would also put some limitations on the FBI's access to a target's library records.

The bill was authored by Senators Larry Craig (R-Id.) and Dick Durbin (D- IL), and is cosponsored by Russell Feingold (D-WI), John Sununu (R-NH), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). "This legislation intends to ensure the liberties of law-abiding individuals are protected in our nation's fight against terrorism, without in any way impeding that fight," Craig said in a statement announcing the bill this week.

In October, 2001, the Senate voted to pass the USA-PATRIOT Act by a margin of 98-1, with Feingold the lone dissenter. It also passed by a wide margin in the House. But since then growing concerns about the potential for abuse of the added surveillance powers have put the Justice Department on the defensive, and the SAFE Act joins several other legislative proposals to roll back, or provide more oversight for, the added surveillance powers.

"The public concern with government over-reaching transcends political affiliation, so it is no surprise to see this level of bipartisan support for the SAFE Act," said attorney Lara Flint with the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a statement supporting the bill.

The Justice Department says concerns about USA-PATRIOT are based on misconceptions, and that the law has helped the government detect, disrupt, and prevent potential terrorist plots.

Copyright © SecurityFocus

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?