If only terrorists would be so accommodating as not to change cell phones, the new curbs on the Patriot Act being pushed by Democrats in Congress would not be so dangerous. But, unfortunately, even a book titled "Terrorism for Dummies" would tell them to use multiple cell phones to plot their mayhem.
In the aftermath of Oklahoma City, President Clinton asked Congress for authority to order roving wiretaps, targeting the terror suspect rather than one specific phone. If he changed phones, the FBI could tap each new phone he used without getting a separate warrant. Congress unwisely and unaccountably refused. But when President Bush renewed the request, after 9-11, Congress included the authorization in the PATRIOT Act. But this provision and many other essential investigatory tools is subject to sunset at the end of the year. Unless affirmatively renewed by Congress, they will lapse.
Drug enforcement agents have long used roving wiretaps, but anti-terror investigators will not be able to use them if Congress doesn't extend the authority. Our anti-terror investigators will be back to the one phone-one warrant rule.
Former Bush Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, writing in an op-ed in Friday's Wall Street Journal, notes that roving wiretaps "helped thwart a plot earlier this year to blow up synagogues in Riverdale, N.Y." Yet liberal Democrats are fighting the renewal of the roving wiretap authority as part of a broad offensive against the very PATRIOT Act provisions that have kept us safe (often by narrow margins) since 9-11.
Other liberal targets include the statute that allows terror investigators to apply for court orders to search business records in national security investigations. The Democrats want to limit this authority to instances in which investigators can prove that their target is an agent of a foreign power.
Since terrorists are unlikely to register under FARA (Foreign Agent Registration Act), one wonders how investigators are supposed to be able to prove that they are foreign agents before they can investigate them! Even though investigators can only search the business records if they get the approval of the court, this safeguard does not impress the liberals.
Ironically, the IRS can access these very same business records if they are connected with a tax investigation whether or not a foreign agent is involved. But terror investigators will have to face a more daunting hurdle.