Portions of Law to Expire This Year
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009; A08
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III urged lawmakers yesterday to renew intelligence-gathering measures in the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, calling them “exceptional” tools to help protect national security.
The law, passed shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, created divisions between proponents, who said it was necessary to deter terrorism, and privacy advocates warning that it tramples on Americans’ civil liberties. Portions of the law are up for reauthorization this year.
Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee he hopes that the reauthorization of two provisions would be far less controversial than in previous years. One of those provisions, which helps authorities secure access to business records, “has been exceptionally helpful in our national security investigations,” he said.
In response to a question from Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Mueller said that his agents had used the provision about 220 times between 2004 and 2007. Data for last year were not yet available, he said.
The measure allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect’s records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the provision, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens.