There are three bills concerning the sunsetting PATRIOT Act provisions currently on the Senate’s calendar:
FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 . Introduced by Feinstein. A bill to extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 until December 31, 2013, and for other purposes. S. 289
USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011. Introduced by Leahy A bill to extend the sunset of certain provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, and for other purposes. S. 290
USA PATRIOT Reauthorization Act of 2011. Introduced by McConnell, Grassley and Chambliss. A bill to repeal the sunset provisions in the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and other related provisions and permanently reauthorize the USA PATRIOT Act. S. 291
The only one of these that privacy and civil liberties advocates will likely support is the one by Senator Leahy because the others do not incorporate any protections and either just extend or make the provisions permanent.
Since the House failed to pass H.R. 514 yesterday, it would be great if the Senate could pass S. 290 and then send that over to the House. We’d stand a better chance of getting some protections that way. It’s not clear to me from the Senate calendar, though, when the Senate will actually take up these bills.
Since both chambers have only seven more working days scheduled for the month of February, it seems likely that both chambers will try to railroad through a bill that merely extends the sunset provisions instead of amending them to incorporate protections, some of which have already been implemented and should have been written into the extensions.
Have you called your Senator yet to express your views as their constituent? You can use the Senate’s site to find your senator’s phone number. Then call your Representative and tell them that you want any extension of PATRIOT Act provisions to include civil liberties protections. If you don’t know your Representative’s name, use the Congress.org zip code lookup form on their home page to get your legislators’ names and phone numbers.
With only 7 working days left for the Senate and House until Feb. 28, it’s crunch time. Pick up the phone and call today. Even if we don’t prevail, at least you’ll know you tried.