April 19, 2018

Effort to Extend Patriot Act Stalls; Wyden Proposes More Disclosure

By LJ Staff

During a May 26 private meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, members disagreed on a proposal to extend the power of the FBI to seek records – including library records – in investigations of terrorism. The proposal would allow the FBI to use administrative subpoenas without getting approval form a judge. "You can fight terrorism ferociously without throwing people’s rights in the trash can," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), told the New York Times. Committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), said "I think we’re making good progress. I think we will get a bill."

Wyden has proposed an amendment that would require semi-annual reports on the voluntary disclosure of business records for foreign intelligence purposes. While the FBI reports its use of search warrants and subpoenas for library records to the Senate intelligence committee twice a year, it also gains records via inquiries that do not require a warrant. Thus, Wyden’s proposal would ensure that all requests were tracked. "Senator Wyden’s amendment would allow the Congress to know more about FBI activity in libraries and it would also ensure that the FBI does not use scare tactics to gather library patrons’ reading records,’ said Emily Sheketoff, director of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Washington Office. ALA and other civil liberties groups had asked the committee to make the session public, to no avail.