Deal near to extend surveillance tactics: aide

Reuters News
Posted: May 20, 2011 10:37 AM
Deal near to extend surveillance tactics: aide

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional leaders have struck a deal to extend key anti-terrorism surveillance tactics for four years, a senior Democratic aide said on Thursday, a move that would avoid a potentially contentious fight over the tactics.

The three tactics, initially approved by Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, were set to expire later this month. Under the deal struck they will be extended until June 1, 2015, according to the aide, who declined to be further identified.

The tactics include roving wiretaps on terrorism suspects who change modes of communications, tracking foreigners who may have loose ties to militants but are acting as "lone wolves" in plotting attacks, and accessing certain business records.

Obama administration officials have been particularly concerned in recent months about the risk of a lone wolf who has loose associations with al Qaeda or other militants launching an attack in the United States.

The agreement was reached by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but it was unclear whether there was broader support in the two chambers.

Aides to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Republican Lamar Smith and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Democrat Patrick Leahy declined to comment.

Senate Republicans have been pushing for a permanent extension to provide law enforcement long-term certainty about what tools they will have to track suspected terrorists. However, some Democrats have demanded more safeguards be added to prevent abuses of civil liberties.

"This reauthorization process started almost two years ago and it's beyond disappointing that it will end without any increased institutional oversight or any meaningful limitation on the government's spying authorities," said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Eric Walsh)