Sunday, February 8, 2015

The FBI Fears the Loss of Surveillance Tools in Patriot Act

Expiring Section of Law, Targeted by Critics of NSA Phone Program, Underpins Requests for Hotel, Credit-Card Bills
U.S. officials and some lawmakers are worried that key tools used to hunt down terrorists and spies could fall victim to the fight over the government’s controversial phone-surveillance program.
U.S. officials say the Patriot Act helped net Anna 
Chapman, shown in a 2010 surveillance video, who was 
sent back to Russia in a spy swap. Photo: AP
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, using authority conveyed by a soon-to-expire section of the 2001 Patriot Act, is currently allowed to seek “tangible things’’ to aid in terrorism or intelligence probes, such as hotel bills, credit-card slips and other documents. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the FBI, with a court order, to take “books, records, papers, documents, and other items.’’
The authority is often used as a way to secretly collect evidence on suspected foreign spies operating in the U.S., according to current and former officials. Unlike a grand-jury subpoena, a person or company receiving a Section 215 order to provide documents is barred from revealing to anyone that they received such a request, these people said.
But Section 215, which is set to expire in June, also provides the legal basis for the National Security Agency’s controversial collection of phone records. That program has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers, civil-liberties groups and others following 2013 revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the U.S. built a vast database of millions of Americans’ phone records. The database includes the time, duration and number of each call, and investigators can use it to try to find terror suspects’ associates.
It is unclear whether Congress, where some lawmakers have long criticized the Patriot Act, will have the votes to pass an extension before Section 215 expires. It has been extended before, but this is the first time that Section 215 has come up for renewal since Mr. Snowden’s revelations.
Read the rest of the story HERE.

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