11/10/2005

Congress May Curb Some Patriot Act Powers

"By LAURIE KELLMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON

Congress is moving to curb some of the police powers it gave the Bush administration after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including imposing new restrictions on the FBI's access to private phone and financial records.

A budding House-Senate deal on the expiring USA Patriot Act includes new limits on federal law enforcement powers and rejects the Bush administration's request to grant the FBI authority to get administrative subpoenas for wiretaps and other covert devices without a judge's approval.

Even with the changes, however, every part of the law set to expire Dec. 31 would be reauthorized and most of those provisions would become permanent.

Under the agreement, for the first time since the act became law, judges would get the authority to reject national security letters giving the government secret access to people's phone and e-mail records, financial data and favorite Internet sites.

Holders of such information _ such as banks and Internet providers _ could challenge the letters in court for the first time, said congressional aides involved in merging separate, earlier-passed House and Senate bills reauthorizing the expiring Patriot Act. "

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