Republican Congressman Steve King is criticizing Democrats who object to reauthorizing parts of the Patriot Act. The legislation was passed after the 9/11 attacks to give the government greater authority to investigate suspected terrorists. Three sections of the Patriot Act are set to expire on December 31st and King, a Republican from Kiron in western Iowa, wants all three kept in place.
“The Patriot Act has proven itself very useful in keeping us safe,” King says, “including in opening up the terrorist plot that looks like it was targeted at Grand Central Station in New York.” Democrats want to tighten provisions which let the F.B.I. get a judge’s permission to conduct secret searches of bank accounts, computers and even the library records.
King is a member of a House subcommittee which held a meeting this past Tuesday to discuss the Patriot Act. King says the “roving wiretaps” allowed under the Patriot Act are useful because they allow federal agents to monitor cell phones. “Terrorists buy a cell phone, use it briefly and throw it away and get a new one,” King says. “We need to have a law that’s adaptable to that changing technology.”
While President Obama criticized the Patriot Act when he was a U.S. Senator, officials in his administration have said they would accept only minor modifications in the law. “It’s interesting that the president and the administration have taken a position in support of reauthorization of the Patriot Act even though people on his side of the party are working against it today,” King says. Some Democrats in the U.S. Senate intend to rewrite the law, add more restrictions, and rename it the “Justice Act.”
The American Civil Liberties Union argues the Patriot Act is unconstitutional and violates the privacy rights of Americans.