Jim Abrams of Associated Press reports:
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to extend until the end of 2013 three post-Sept. 11 terror-fighting practices that have raised concerns among civil liberties groups.
At the same time, the legislation, which was approved on a 10-7, mainly party-line vote, would end in December 2013 the investigative tool known as National Security Letters that compel businesses to turn over customer records without a judge’s order.
A bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday voted to send legislation to address expiring intelligence tools authorized by the USA PATRIOT Act to the full Senate for consideration.
The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act is authored by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and will extend until 2013 three expiring intelligence-gathering tools now set to expire on May 27: Roving wiretaps, the “lone wolf” measure, and section 215 orders for tangible things, commonly referred to as the “library records” provision. The legislation also strengthens privacy and civil liberty safeguards and increases oversight, and includes an important sunset on National Security Letters, the use of which has received increased scrutiny in recent years. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) joined Leahy and a majority of the Committee in support of advancing the legislation.
“The deadline to address expiring intelligence-gathering authorities is fast approaching,” said Leahy. “Consideration of the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act has been too long delayed. I am pleased the Committee reported the bill today with bipartisan support. Ensuring that law enforcement and the intelligence community have the tools they need to protect national security is an issue important to both Democrats and Republicans, and as the Attorney General has recently testified, this bill strikes the ‘right balance’ in terms of providing additional civil liberties protections.”
Leahy continued, “I hope Senators will carefully consider this legislation when it is debated by the Senate. Extraneous amendments unrelated to the surveillance provisions may help some score political points, or grab the headline of a story, but they do little to strengthen and improve the authorizations at the heart of the legislation. The oversight provisions and privacy safeguards in this bill, coupled with the reasonable extension of these authorizes, should be supported by members on both sides of the aisle.”
The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act was the subject of five meetings and several hours of debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill was introduced by Leahy on January 25, and mirrors legislation reported by a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2009. That legislation was also backed by the Obama administration, and the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence wrote to congressional leaders endorsing the bill.
The text of amendments adopted during the Committee’s debate are available on web at http://judiciary.senate.gov/.
One of the amendments to S.193 that passed amends FISA at 1805(c)(1)(A) to insert ‘‘with particularity’’ after ‘‘description,” a higher standard or bar to get approval for surveillance.