- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Obama administration has recommended continuing three controversial Bush-era tactics to investigate suspected terrorists, according to a letter released Tuesday from the Department of Justice to a key lawmaker.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, received a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich in which the Justice Department asked Congress to reauthorize three portions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year.

The three portions relate to roving wiretaps, seizing business records and monitoring suspected “lone wolf” terrorists.

“We also are aware that members of Congress may propose modifications to provide additional protection for the privacy of law abiding Americans,” Mr. Weich wrote. “Therefore, the Administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities.”

The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 23 on the expiring provisions.

“I am pleased that the Justice Department has signaled its willingness to work with Congress in addressing the expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act,” Mr. Leahy said. “It is important that Congress and the executive branch work together to ensure that we protect both our national security and our civil liberties. The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next week to determine how we can best do this, and I look forward to hearing further from the administration and parties on all sides of this issue.”

The provision related to roving wiretaps allows authorities to monitor an individual instead of a particular phone number, which is the common practice in wiretap investigations.

The letter said that authorities apply for roving wiretaps in about 22 cases a year and can only do so when the suspect is engaged in countersurveillance techniques such as frequently changing phone numbers.

The business record provision allows investigators to seize financial, medical, library and other records of a suspected terrorists.

“The absence of such an authority could force the FBI to sacrifice key intelligence opportunities,” Mr. Weich wrote.

The “lone wolf” provision allows authorities to monitor a person believed to be engaged in terrorism but who may not be linked to a specific terrorist organization.

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