Several opponents of the conference committee version of the so-called USA "Patriot" Act reauthorization agreed to a deal with the administration, almost certainly clearing the way for passage in the Senate. The United Press International
The agreement, announced Thursday, would extend the law for four years. The original bill had 16 provisions "sunset" on Dec. 31, 2005. A pair of extensions has kept the law in force until March 10. The new measure should be passed and signed by then. Some dissenters -- mainly Democrats and libertarian Republicans -- were won over by changes in library record access and a gag rule on subpoenas granted by the U.S. surveillance court, The Washington Post reported.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), one of the few real patriots in the Senate, still opposes the bill. According to Senator Feingold:
The Patriot Act conference report, combined with the few changes announced today, does not address the core issues that our bipartisan group of Senators have been concerned about for the last several years. The modest but critical changes we have been pushing are not included. I am not talking about new issues. We are talking about the same issues that concerned us when we first introduced the SAFE Act more than two years ago to fix the Patriot Act. And we have laid them out in detail in several different letters over the past few months.
First, and most importantly, the deal does not ensure that the government can only obtain the library, medical and other sensitive business records of people who have some link to suspected terrorists. This is the Section 215 issue, which has been at the center of this debate over the Patriot Act. Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to obtain secret court orders in domestic intelligence investigations to get all kinds of business records about people, including not just library records, but also medical records and various other types of business records. The Senate bill that this body passed by unanimous consent back in July would have ensured that the government cannot use this power to go after someone who has no connection whatsoever to a terrorist or spy or their activities. The conference report replaces the Senate test with a simple relevance standard, which is not adequate protection against a fishing expedition. And the deal struck today leaves that provision of the conference report unchanged.
Second, the deal does not provide meaningful judicial review of the gag orders placed on recipients of Section 215 business records orders and National Security Letters. Under the deal, such review can only take place after a year has passed and can only be successful if the recipient proves that that government has acted in bad faith. The deal ignores the serious First Amendment problem with the gag rule under current law. In fact, it arguably makes the law worse in this area.
And third, the deal does not ensure that when government agents secretly break into the homes of Americans to do a so-called "sneak and peek" search, they tell the owners of those homes in most circumstances within seven days, as courts have said they should, and as the Senate bill did.
(entire statement, via WisPolitics.com, here
According to Caroline Fredrickson of the ACLU,
Unfortunately, the proposed changes to the reauthorization bill do not correct the secret record search powers and do not require that there be any individualized suspicion of wrongdoing by Americans before their financial, medical, library or other records can be searched. Common sense reforms could have required that records sought be connected to a suspected terrorist or terrorist organization. We will continue to press for these and other needed reforms to protect American freedoms
(entire press release here
Furthermore, the bill still contains provisions that would invade the privacy of cold and allergy sufferers in a futile
attempt to curb the manufacture and use of methamphetamine. The ONN reports:
CAPITOL HILL The Patriot Act compromise agreed to yesterday also clears the way for passage of legislation aimed at curbing production of the illegal drug, methamphetamine.
The measure would put a nationwide limit on sales of over-the-counter cold medicines that contain a key ingredient in production of meth. Consumers would be limited to no more than 300 pills a month.
(entire report here
The day this bill passes will be a bad day for American freedom, but a good day
for Mexican meth manufacturers.