Patriot Act Agreement: It's Capitulation, Not a Deal

The White House is pulling another fast one, this time with the Patriot Act. The Republican senators who joined the filibuster of the renewal legislation in December, John Sununu (NH), Larry Craig (ID), Lisa Murkowski (AL) and Chuck Hagel (NE) have made a deal with the White House. They will now vote for the revised Patriot Act, based upon insignificant and insufficient revisions agreed to by the White House.

Sen. Russ Feingold and Rep. John Conyers are blasting the deal. From their press releases (no link yet, received by e-mail.)


"This one-sided "deal" is unacceptable. The few minor changes that the White House agreed to do not address the major problems with the Patriot Act that a bipartisan coalition has been trying to fix for the past several years. We've come too far and fought too hard to agree to a few insignificant changes. I will continue to strongly oppose, and use every option at my disposal to stop, any reauthorization of the Patriot Act that does not protect the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Americans with no connection to terrorism."


"I am disappointed to hear that a deal has been struck -- again without any bipartisan input..... The details of this agreement, as it has been described to me, fall far short of the objective of the twin ideals of protecting the American people from terrorism and preserving our checks and balances.

Conyers reports that under the deal, the Government will continue to be allowed to:

  • Issue secret intelligence orders for any tangible thing, including library or medical records, if the government can show only "relevance" to terrorism. The target does not have to be suspected of any wrongdoing;
  • Permanently gag Americans even after they have turned over their most personal information;
  • Search private homes and not give notice to the resident for a month, or even longer - all for the convenience of law enforcement;
  • Collect and keep personal data in databases indefinitely, including library, financial and medical records.

This is unacceptable. It's a deal made by the White House with Republicans behind closed doors. The Patriot Act, if renewed, must be a bi-partisan effort.

Stay tuned, and make sure your fax machines are turned on.

Update: The AP has more details on the non-compromise.

One GOP official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the legislation was rewritten to make clear that an individual receiving a National Security Letter was not required to notify the FBI if he consulted a lawyer. These letters are secret requests for phone, business and Internet records.

This official said a second proposed change would clarify that only libraries that are "electronic service providers" could be required to provide information to government agents as part of a terrorist investigation.

More from Senator Feingold's floor statement today:

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.

As I understand it, this deal only makes a few small changes. It would permit judicial review of a Section 215 gag order, but under conditions that would make it very difficult for anyone to obtain meaningful judicial review. It would state specifically that the government can serve National Security Letters on libraries if the library comes within the current requirements of the NSL statute, a provision that as I read it, just restates current law. And it would clarify that people who receive a National Security Letter would not have to tell the FBI if they consult with an attorney. This last change is a positive step, but it is only one relatively minor change.

So this deal comes nowhere near the significant, but very reasonable, changes in the law that I believe are a necessary part of any reauthorization package. We weren't asking for much, Mr. President. We weren't even asking for changes that would get us close to the bill that this body passed without objection last July. But the White House would not be reasonable and has forced a deal that is not satisfactory in an effort to serve their partisan purposes. I will oppose it, and I will fight it.

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  • Re: Patriot Act Agreement: It's Capitulation, Not (none / 0) (#1)
    by Lora on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 04:17:53 PM EST
    I smell a coup. Everything is falling into place for one. Beef up the military, use it domestically, spy on citizens. Soon we'll have to follow orders or else.

    Re: Patriot Act Agreement: It's Capitulation, Not (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 04:34:59 PM EST
    lora-seems like the coup already happened. We just have not heard becaued there is a gag order in place.

    Oh you are right about that one. lets face facts our bush government is looking to put us all behind bars. his real plan is to replace us all with people that can be controlled. and after all if you are running a country like a business thats what you would want. go to jackblood.com

    Re: Patriot Act Agreement: It's Capitulation, Not (none / 0) (#4)
    by pigwiggle on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 06:48:28 AM EST
    "I smell a coup. Everything is falling into place ..."
    It's like that old adage about the atheist praying on his death bed. I'm glad to see liberals finally getting a bit frightened of the federal juggarnaught. Welcome to the dark side.