Justice fights Senate demand for reporting on data mining

Department says one-time reporting rule in Patriot Act is adequate. Senate wants annual reports.

Bipartisan legislation in the Senate would require disclosure to Congress of data-mining programs, but the Justice Department opposes it, saying disclosure is already required under the 2006 renewal of the USA Patriot Act, The Washington Post reports.

The department missed the March 9 deadline to report on its data-mining programs as required by that law. Senate Democrats are not pleased.

"This is more stonewalling by the administration to avoid congressional oversight," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). "We specifically placed sunshine provisions in the Patriot Act reauthorization to ensure some reasonable checks on the department's data-mining activities that affect millions of Americans," Leahy said.

The 2006 Patriot Act rule required just a one-time report on Justice data-mining initiatives. The Senate wants reporting every year.

It's getting harder to "just trust" the Justice Department, after findings that the FBI improperly gathered telephone and financial records of U.S. residents and that the Department fired US attorneys seemingly for political reasons.

In January, Leahy asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales whether the Justice Department would produce a report on its data-mining activities. He received no reply.

But Friday, with the department trying to contain fallout from the inspector general's report and a controversy over its firing of eight U.S. attorneys, Richard A. Hertling, the acting assistant attorney general, wrote Leahy that the department was "working diligently" to complete the report and send it to Congress "as expeditiously as possible."