Republicans move to limit Patriot Act

Lawmakers would put expiration date on powers Bush wants permanent

July 14, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Congressional Republicans signaled yesterday that they are unwilling to rubber-stamp the administration's push to make permanent some controversial sections of the Patriot Act.

The GOP lawmakers are considering at least some modifications on the authority of government agencies in charge of preventing future terror attacks.

Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act, passed hastily in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to expand the government's investigative powers, are set to expire at the end of the year.

The Bush administration has asked Congress to make them permanent.

However, two House committees and a key senator took steps yesterday to extend the act's most controversial provisions for only a temporary period or add judicial checks on some powers the act grants to investigative agencies.

It remains to be seen whether the proposed limits will remain in the bill as it is debated in both chambers and different versions are reconciled.

But the fact that the Republican-led committees in the House, which generally follow the administration's wishes, declined to make all the provisions permanent indicates that the White House is unlikely to get a blank check from Congress.

In particular, the House Judiciary Committee put a 10-year expiration date on the provision granting federal authorities the right to subpoena records from businesses, hospitals and libraries, as well as on a provision allowing the government to continue to wiretap phones when suspects switch numbers.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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