Some of the most controversial sections of the USA Patriot Act are set to sunset December 31. Congress has begun to debate the reauthorization of these provisions, while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calls for further expansion of powers.
On June 3, the New York City Bar Association wrote a letter to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in Washington, D.C., to express its deep concern about one proposed provision: Section 213 of the proposed bill titled "Administrative Subpoenas in National Security Investigations." This provision would expand the powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to issue administrative subpoenas "on its own initiative with no prior judicial supervision." The Association said it opposes this proposal because "it has the potential for serious abuse and grave and unwarranted intrusions into rights guaranteed by the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution."
In its letter to Senators Pat Roberts and John D. Rockefeller, Senate committee chairman and vice chairman, respectively, the Bar urged them to keep the hearings open to the public. "The very decision to hold hearings on these matters in secret and without public scrutiny is itself a severe blow to fundamental democratic values," wrote the letter's author, Bettina B. Plevan, president of the New York City Bar Association.
The Association's six-page letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence may be read or downloaded at www.abcny.org.