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Deal set to limit probes by FBI

Extends most of Patriot Act

WASHINGTON -- House and Senate negotiators have struck a tentative deal on the expiring Patriot Act that would curb FBI investigative power and require the Justice Department to more fully report its secret requests for information about ordinary people.

Democrats and civil libertarians said that while the tentative deal makes some improvements, it does not achieve their chief goal: curbing FBI power to gather certain information by requiring the investigators to prove that the subject's records are connected to a foreign agent or government.

''It gives a nod toward checks and balances without fixing the most fundamental flaws in the Patriot Act," said Lisa Graves of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The agreement, which would make most provisions of the existing law permanent, was reached just before dawn yesterday. By midmorning, GOP leaders had already made plans for a House vote today and a Senate vote by the end of the week. That would put the centerpiece of President Bush's war on terrorism on his desk a month before a dozen or more provisions were set to expire.

Officials negotiating the deal described it on condition of anonymity because the draft is not official and has not been signed by any of the 34 conferees.

In revising the law, lawmakers said, they tried to find the nation's comfort level with expanded law enforcement power in the post-Sept. 11 era -- a task that carries extra political risks with midterm elections next year.

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