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Judiciary to Begin Reauthorization of USA PATRIOT Act

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin the steps to reauthorize provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act when it meets next week for an oversight hearing.Three provisions in the law, dealing with wiretapping, secret surveillance of foreign citizens within the United States and investigation of certain private records, are up for renewal this year. The Judiciary Committee meets Sept. 23 to hear testimony on those provisions.Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Monday recommending the reauthorization of each of the three provisions.Weich did indicate he would be open to slightly altering those measures, “provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities.—Meanwhile, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on Tuesday reiterated that they would look to revise the provisions to try to ensure there are “safeguards for surveillance powers that have been vastly expanded in recent years.— In a statement, the two Senators, both Judiciary members, said they would introduce legislation to deal with the three provisions that are up for reauthorization.“We must take this opportunity to get it right, once and for all,— the two Senators said. “And we must be able to have a meaningful public debate so that the American people and their representatives in Congress can understand how these authorities have actually been used and make informed decisions about how they should be used in the future.—The USA PATRIOT Act, which emboldened the nation’s law enforcement agencies, was enacted in 2001 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Congress reauthorized the law in 2006.“I am pleased that the Justice Department has signaled its willingness to work with Congress in addressing the expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act,— Leahy said in a release. “It is important that Congress and the executive branch work together to ensure that we protect both our national security and our civil liberties.”

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