House and Senate Debate Patriot Act Renewal
The US House of Representatives began debate on legislation to renew the USA Patriot Act today, shortly after news of the terror attacks in London was first reported. The legislation calls for making permanent 14 of the 16 provisions of the original law passed shortly after the Sept 11th attacks that are due to sunset at the end of this year. The House version also extends provisions relating to allowing roving wiretaps and another relating to searches of library and medical records for ten years. A vote is likely to be held later in the day.
On the Senate side of the Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation to make 14 expiring provisions of the anti-terror law permanent while extending through 2009 two other sections authorizing roving wiretaps on terrorism suspects and allowing law enforcement agents to seek a court order for “any tangible thing,” such as business records, they deem related to a terrorism investigation. The legislation would require agents to show “reasonable grounds to believe” that the records sought are related to a terrorism investigation.
A competing bill has already been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which would give the FBI expanded powers to subpoena records without the approval of a judge or grand jury, ensuring further debate in the Senate before the legislation moves to a House-Senate conference.
TYL has previously called for reforms to several of the provisions of the Patriot Act, fearing that the legislation go too far in sacrificing freedom to protect us against terror. Statements, including this one by Sen. Leahy, ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, indicate that some reforms have been included in the bill working its way through that committee. However we still need to continue to press our leaders to ensure that the necessary reforms are included in the final version of this bill that will eventually be sent to the President.