Barr voted for the bill when he was in Congress and, like Keene, he insists he wants most of the 16 expiring sections renewed. In testimony on Capitol Hill, Barr said his coalition sought modest modifications of the law, such as limiting the length of time and number of targets covered by a roving wiretap.
The White House said it wants all 16 sections renewed. Bush also has supported the idea of allowing FBI agents to obtain certain records without a judge's signature, though he has never advocated its inclusion in the Patriot Act.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Saturday that administrative subpoenas were already allowed in certain criminal and civil investigations, so the Senate panel's proposal "would simply allow a long-standing constitutional tool to be used in terrorism investigations."
Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said the attorney general backed administrative subpoenas as "a helpful tool, but the reauthorization of the Patriot Act remains the No. 1 priority." She added that Gonzales had been committed to "open dialogue, based on facts, explaining to the public that there are no verified civil liberties claims against the Patriot Act."
Keene, who had recently praised Gonzales for his outreach efforts, said Friday that the administration commitment to openness and review "appears to me to be just spin, a public relations effort, not a real willingness" to consider "whether the new powers government wants to assert are justified."
Perino said that the White House welcomed the Senate Intelligence Committee's taking the lead on renewing the Patriot Act but that it had no position on which committee should work on the legislation. Those decisions are determined by Senate rules and procedures, she said.
Keene and Barr's alliance plans to send letters to Capitol Hill this week calling for rejection of the administrative subpoenas and urging a more careful review of the act itself.
In addition, Barr said, radio ads are being readied for key congressional districts, paid for by Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, a coalition of that includes the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Civil Liberties Union, gun rights advocates, the Libertarian Party and some left-of-center groups.
Activists also plan to rally next weekend in Harrisburg, Pa., in the home state of Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter.
Specter must decide how his committee will proceed on the legislation. Senate aides said he could choose to try to modify the Intelligence Committee's proposal or could send a competing package to the Senate floor. Specter has told reporters that the Patriot Act pits "fundamental questions of security of our country with basic constitutional rights."
The coalition critical of the Patriot Act prefers alternative legislation that limits some of the most controversial measures but does not repeal any of them. That legislation, sponsored by Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), would limit roving wiretaps and require earlier notification of subjects of "sneak and peak" searches, in which people are not immediately told their property has been searched.