Friday, November 18, 2005

Accord on anti-terror law faces opposition


Accord on anti-terror law faces opposition

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of six senators vowed on Thursday to oppose renewal of the anti-terror Patriot Act unless a tentative accord drafted by Republican-led negotiators was changed to provide greater protections of civil liberties.

It was unclear what, if any, changes would be made. Critics expressed hope they could obtain some revisions to ease concerns in the 100-member Senate.

But top Republican aides in the House of Representatives and the Senate said they expected to muster adequate support to proceed with perhaps relatively minor modifications.

The Patriot Act, a controversial centerpiece of President George W. Bush's war on terror, was enacted after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to expand federal powers to track suspected terrorists.

Republican-led negotiators agreed on Wednesday to extend or make permanent key provisions set to expire next month, including ones covering wiretaps, Internet surveillance and access to personal records.

But six senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- on Thursday called the tentative accord "unacceptable."

Among the revisions they demanded were ones that would require the government to convince a judge that records sought have a connection to a suspected terrorist or spy. They also want people more quickly advised after they are subjected to "a sneak-and-peek search" of their home or place of business.

"If further changes are not made, we will work to stop this bill from becoming law," they wrote leaders of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

The six are assistant Senate minority leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, fellow Democrats Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and Ken Salazar of Colorado, and Republicans Larry Craig of Idaho, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, declined comment, other than to tell reporters, "We're working on it."

Feingold said, "They (proponents) may be able to get it through ... but I am ready to resist."

Feingold and other critics have at least slowed down final congressional consideration. Proponents had initially hoped to bring the tentative accord up for a vote in the House on Thursday.

The House and Senate would both have to approve such legislation before it could be sent to Bush to sign into law.