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article imageObama administration supports Patriot Act spy provisions

By Andrew Moran     Sep 16, 2009 in Politics
President Barack Obama and his administration told Congress that the White House supports extending the Patriot Act and might consider modifications to the act.
The Obama administration told Congress that it supports extending three key provisions to the post-September 11, 2001 law; the Patriot Act, according to the Associated Press. In a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday, assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch stated, “The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities.”
For several years since the 9/11 attacks many conservative and liberal civil rights groups criticized the Patriot Act because it gave the government too much authority into the private lives of its citizens. President candidate Barack Obama, throughout his campaign, told his supporters that he would look closely into the Patriot Act due to his expertise in Constitutional Law.
Michelle Richardson, the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative counsel, said that they are strongly opposed to renewing all three provisions, especially the lone wolf measure, which, according to Wired, "allows FISA court warrants for the electronic monitoring of an individual even without showing that the person is an agent of a foreign power or a suspected terrorist."
In the final year of George W. Bush’s presidency, the President signed a law that would give immunity to American telecommunications companies for past and present monitoring of Americans who communicate to foreigners if they are linked to terrorism. As Senator of Illinois, Obama voted for this bill.
Then-Senator was strongly criticized for supporting this bill. During his May Presidential campaign, Obama said that many legal institutions must update in order to deal with the threat terrorism but adheres to the rule of law at the same time. He further added, hours after the house passed the resolution, "Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program."
The other two provisions are:
“A secret court, known as the FISA court, may grant “roving wiretaps” without the government identifying the target. Generally, the authorities must assert that the target is an agent of a foreign power and/or a suspected terrorist."
“The FISA court may grant warrants for “business records,” from banking to library to medical records. Generally, the government must assert that the records are relevant to foreign intelligence gathering and/or a terrorism investigation."
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