Senator Wants to Limit Patriot Act

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) introduced legislation Friday designed to rollback certain provisions of the Patriot Act, including requiring a court order for U.S. law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance.

According to Murkowski, her bill would not repeal any portion of the Patriot Act, but would curb some the police powers granted under the legislation. The Patriot Act was passed in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We must strike a careful and constitutional balance between protecting the individual rights of Americans and giving our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools they need to prevent future terrorist attacks,” Murkowski said in a statement. “To date it appears portions of the Patriot Act may have moved the scales out of balance. My goal is simply to make sure that our laws are balanced.”

The Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act (S. 1552) requires that law enforcement agencies demonstrate a cause for suspicion before courts could issue authority to monitor certain telephone and Internet use and also seeks to limit the FBI’s ability to review a person’s personal data, including medical, library and Internet records.

Murkowski wants the FBI to meet the standards outlined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires law enforcement agencies to have probable cause that surveillance targets are agents of foreign powers.

Just 45 days after the Sept.11 attacks, with virtually no debate, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act. Since then, it has come under fire from a number of conservative and civil libertarian groups for its rollback in privacy rights. The Department of Justice is expected to introduce a sequel, dubbed Patriot II, that, that, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “would further erode key freedoms and liberties of every American.”

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