H.R. 3961: Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3961 - Extending expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act

H.R. 3961

Motion to Concur in the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3961 - Extending expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act

Sponsor
Rep. John Conyers Jr.

Date
February 26, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3961 on Thursday, February 25, 2010, under a closed rule.  These amendments to H.R. 3961 were passed by the Senate on Wednesday, February 24, 2010.

Bill Summary

The bill would extend the three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 for one year, until February 28, 2011.

Background

After running out of time on a long-term reauthorization bill, the House passed a three month reauthorization of several expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act via the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 3386 Conference Report, December 16, 2009).  These three controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire on February 28, 2010:

(1)   The So-Called "Library Provision" (Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act):  This provision allows the FBI to apply to the FISA court for an order granting access to tangible items-including books, records, papers, and other documents-in foreign intelligence, international terrorism and clandestine intelligence cases.  In order to ensure protection against abuses of Section 215 authority, the USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act of 2005 contains several conditions including Congressional oversight, procedural protections, application requirements and a judicial review process.  Several of the 9-11 terrorists used public computers to review their September 11th plane tickets.  Members may feel that in the context of intelligence or terrorism investigations-and only in that context-investigators should have the authority to request a court order to review business records.

(2)   Roving Wiretaps Provision (Section 206 of the PATRIOT Act):  This provision authorizes U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court (FISA) orders for multipoint or "roving" wiretaps for foreign intelligence investigations.  A "roving" wiretap applies to an individual and allows the government to use a single wiretap order to cover any communications device that the suspect uses or may use.  This type of wiretap differs from a traditional criminal wiretap that only applies to a particular phone or computer used by a target.  Without roving wiretap authority, investigators would be forced to seek a new court order each time they need to change the location, phone or computer that needs to be monitored.  Terrorists and foreign spies use multiple communications devices to evade detection.  Members may feel that roving wiretaps are necessary in intelligence investigations to ensure that investigators do not lose track of critical information from suspects under surveillance. 

(3)  "Lone Wolf" Provision (Section 6001 of Intelligence Reform Act):  This provision amends the definition of "agent of a foreign power" to include individual foreign terrorists who may not be directly affiliated with a foreign power or international terrorist organization.  This provision would cover terrorists who work on their own cannot escape surveillance simply because they are not agents of a foreign power or avowed members of an international terrorist group.  Examples of "lone wolf" terrorists are Richard Reid (the "Shoe-Bomber"), Timothy McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski-however, this provision would not apply to them because they are U.S. citizens.  This provision ONLY applies to foreign terrorists or agents of a foreign power.