"Senate Votes to Make Permanent Most Expiring Parts of Patriot Act"http://www.foxnews.c...,164173,00.html
WASHINGTON ó The GOP-controlled Senate voted Friday to make permanent most of the expiring provisions of the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act (search).
Senators, however, set new four-year expiration dates on the most controversial provisions of the law, those allowing federal agents to use roving wiretaps and to search library and medical records.
The passage of the Senate legislation, which was by voice vote minutes before the chamber left for a month-long summer break, sets up a fall confrontation with the Republican-controlled House, which wanted 10-year expirations, or sunsets, on those two provisions.
The House and the Senate will try to negotiate a compromise bill to send to President Bush before December, when 16 provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire.
The roving wiretap provision allows investigators to obtain warrants to intercept a suspect's phone conversations or Internet traffic without limiting investigators to a specific phone or requiring them to identify the suspect. The records provision authorizes federal officials to obtain "tangible items" such as business, library and medical records.
"The Patriot Act is a uniquely valuable piece of legislation for this unparalleled time in Americas history, and its provisions will help keep us safe and defeat the hidden terrorist cells operating here in America," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), R-Tenn.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (search) of Nevada said "like all compromises, it includes provisions that are not supported by everyone in this body. However, Democratic and Republican members of the Judiciary Committee came together in a spirit of cooperation and compromise to agree on this bill, and I strongly support it."
The Senate also had a competing Patriot Act reauthorization bill that had been approved by the Intelligence Committee, which would give the FBI expanded powers to subpoena records without the approval of a judge or grand jury. That bill was not approved, however, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., threatened on Friday to hold up a final House-Senate version if negotiators restore the expanded FBI subpoena powers.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the Senate bill approved Friday was "imperfect" but "a good starting point, and is vastly better than its counterpart passed by the House." "
(From the A.C.L.U blog) : "This bipartisan bill was approved through a process called "unanimous consent," where the leaders of both parties get consent to take action on a measure and none of the other Senators object.
The good news is there were also no amendments to make the bill worse or try to strip out some of the modest improvements made to the Patriot Act.
Just this past Wednesday, the FBI was asking again for expanded powers to write its own search orders without any court approval in advance and without demonstrating to any court that there were any facts connecting any personal records sought to an agent of a foreign power.
This terrible idea, called "administrative subpoena" power by the Justice Department and called the FBI's "write-your-own-search-order" by us, was not embraced by the three other Committees in Congress that considered the Patriot Act (though an amendment by Congressman Flake on the House floor takes a step backward in that direction--more on that later).
Still, had the Specter bill not been approved by "UC," in the lingo of the Senate, it would have been subject to potentially unlimited amendments and debate unless there were consent by both parties to limit these or if "cloture" had been invoked (a Senate rule allowing a super majority to force a vote).
So, now the Senate bill goes to conference. This is the process for reconciling differences between bills passed by both houses of Congress about the same subject. We know the Senate conferees, but not the House ones yet. They are Chairman Specter and Chairman Roberts, as well Senators Hatch, DeWine, Kyl, Sessions, Leahy, Rockefeller, Kennedy, and Levin (members of either or both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees).
The ACLU and its allies across the nation still have a lot of work ahead of us to help ensure that in the conference committee of House and Senate members the modest improvements are not lost and that the worse provisions of the severely flawed House bill do not become the law."
So for right now, we get a break from this - after "summer break" is over, we'll have to start watching and calling and writing and FAX'ing again. To me, personally, neither
bill is worth a **** - too many provisions that were supposed to "sunset" become permanent and some that I felt should
have been made "sunset" provisions weren't. I think the "modest safeguards" in the current bill aren't nearly
strongly worded enough, don't have enough over-sight and darn little hope of ever being considered actual recourse
for anyone who comes under scrutiny for whatever reason.
But on balance and for this point in time I think we've done pretty well.
Is there any doubt in anyone's
mind that the House version of the bill (including the requested "administrative subpoena power" for the F.B.I) would have sailed right straight through were it not for thousands of us screaming our heads' off to our legislator's about our concerns?You and I STOPPED that from happening
- and don't forget that fact for a moment, because it's true
So enjoy the break - and take heart and keep an eye on the news, because we may be getting more help from this from the 'judiciary" side.
"Judge: Parts of Patriot Act Unconstitutional"http://www.foxnews.c...,164168,00.html