WASHINGTON – As the Bush administration mounts a high-profile effort to keep the Patriot Act intact, there’s a less visible campaign under way to expand the controversial anti-terrorism law and hand the FBI sweeping new investigative powers.
President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales head to Columbus, Ohio, today to tout a law they credit as instrumental in keeping America safe. They will urge Congress to permanently extend the sections of the law, enacted just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, that expire at year’s end.
The selection of Columbus wasn’t accidental. Investigators there, using Patriot Act authorities, scored a victory in the fight against terrorism: Arresting and convicting al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris, a truck driver who plotted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and other U.S. targets.
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday approved a bill to hand FBI agents authority to write their own subpoenas in certain probes without a judge’s approval. The bill also would broaden the FBI’s authority to monitor people’s mail in terrorism investigations.