A budding House-Senate deal on the expiring USA Patriot Act includes new limits on federal law enforcement powers and rejects the Bush administration's request to grant the FBI authority to get administrative subpoenas for wiretaps and other covert devices without a judge's approval.
Even with the changes, however, every part of the law set to expire Dec. 31 would be reauthorized and most of those provisions would become permanent.
Under the agreement, for the first time since the act became law, judges would get the authority to reject national security letters giving the government secret access to people's phone and e-mail records, financial data and favorite Internet sites.
Holders of such information - such as banks and Internet providers - could challenge the letters in court for the first time, said congressional aides involved in merging separate, earlier-passed House and Senate bills reauthorizing the expiring Patriot Act.
It sounds like half a loaf to me. I like the status quo, which is letting many provisions lapse, better.