White House Wants ISPs to Turn Over Records

Matt O'Conner
WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration on Friday filed a motion in federal appeals court seeking the power to force Internet service providers to hand over information on customers — and barring them from telling customers they have done so.

Under the Patriot Act of 2001, investigative agencies were granted the ability to secretly demand customer data records from ISPs.

But a district judge last year barred such investigations, saying that because the investigated party would have no knowledge of the investigation, there would be no way they could challenge it.

On Friday, the White House asked a New York appellate court to overturn the ruling.

The filing came just one day after the Senate Intelligence Committee held a closed-door meeting to discuss another measure that civil libertarians are calling a major threat to individual rights.

The proposal would allow the FBI to subpoena records in intelligence investigations without the consent or approval of a judge or grand jury.

Such administrative subpoenas would require the approval of FBI Director Robert Mueller or his senior aides, and the White House would have to report to Congress twice each year on how the subpoenas are being used.

“The government has not made a compelling case that such extraordinarily broad powers are necessary, as it ought to when precious civil liberties are involved,” attorney Anita Ramasastry said.

The Intelligence Committee failed to come to a conclusion on the issue, and debate cannot continue until after Congress’ Memorial Day recess ends June 7.

In all, 16 provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire this December. The Bush Administration has said it would like Congress to renew all provisions and, in some cases, such as the “administrative subpoenas,” expand them.