September 22, 2009

LEAHY, CARDIN, KAUFMAN INTRODUCE BENCHMARK LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE EXPIRING PATRIOT ACT PROVISIONS

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security today joined Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), also a member of the Judiciary Committee, introducing legislation to address expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, which are slated to sunset on December 31.  The Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act on Wednesday, September 23
 
The USA PATRIOT Act was first enacted in October 2001, and was reauthorized in 2006. Three provisions in the Act are set to expire this year, including the authorizations for roving wiretaps, the "lone wolf" measure, and Section 215 orders for tangible things, commonly referred to as the "library records" provision.  The proposed legislation extends the sunset of these three provisions, expands reporting requirements to allow Congress and the public to monitor the use of the authorities, and adds more exacting standards and court review for these information-gathering powers. 
 
The USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act introduced Tuesday also includes a new, four-year sunset on National Security Letters (NSLs), and requires the Department of Justice's Inspector General to conduct audits of the use of National Security Letters and Section 215 orders from 2007 through 2012.  Audit reports on the government's use of NSLs required by the 2006 reauthorization of the Patriot Act concluded that the government was misusing National Security Letters.
 
"Congress' top priority is to protect the American people. We must make sure that our law enforcement and intelligence professionals have the tools they need to prevent and disrupt terrorist attacks, while maintaining an appropriate balance between national security and protecting civil liberties. With these parallel goals in mind, I am pleased to join with Chairman Leahy as an original co-sponsor of this important legislation to renew three provisions of the Patriot Act that expire at the end of this year.  This legislation represents a good starting point for our debate, particularly with its enhanced oversight and protections, new sunset provision and additional changes in law for National Security Letters," said Senator Cardin.
 
"Security and liberty are both essential in our free society," said Leahy.  "Today Senator Cardin, Senator Kaufman and I are introducing a bill that will extend the authorization of the three expiring provisions.  The bill also updates checks and balances by increasing judicial review of the use of government powers that capture information on U.S. citizens, and augments congressional oversight.  We propose increasing Government accountability through more transparent public reporting of the use of surveillance, and by requiring audits of how these vast authorities have been used since they were last reauthorized."
 
Kaufman said, "We must provide our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools they need to keep America safe, while at the same time safeguarding Americans' rights. I look forward to working with Chairman Leahy, my colleagues and the administration to make sure that we accomplish both of these critical objectives."
 
Key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009 include:
 
SUNSETS:
 
·          Extension of the three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act to December 31, 2013.  The four-year period mirrors the sunsets in the original 2001 Patriot Act and the 2006 reauthorization. 
 
·          Adds a new four-year sunset on National Security Letters.
 
PUBLIC REPORTING AND OVERSIGHT:
 
·          Requires public reporting on the number of requests for National Security Letters that shows greater specificity of the types of persons targeted.
 
·          Requires public reporting that breaks down requests for core types of surveillance, including electronic surveillance, physical searches, business records, and pen registrations.
 
·          Requires new Department of Justice Inspector General audits of the use of National Security Letters, orders for tangible things, and FISA pen register or trap and trace devices ("pen/trap") covering the years 2007 through 2012.
 
HIGHER STANDARDS FOR SURVEILLANCE OF AMERICANS:
 
·          Modifies the standards for obtaining a Section 215 order for tangible things and a pen/trap under FISA to require that the records sought are relevant to an investigation and, at minimum, pertain to a suspected agent of a foreign power.
 
·          Modifies the current standard for obtaining a National Security Letter to require a statement of facts showing reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation.
 
INCREASED JUDICIAL REVIEW:
 
·          Modifies judicial review of nondisclosure orders associated with 215 orders for tangible things by repealing two provisions added in the 2006 reauthorization:  (a) the one-year waiting period before seeking judicial review, and (b) the conclusive presumption favoring nondisclosure. 
 
·          Imposes a one-year limitation on nondisclosure orders on NSLs and shifts the burden to the government to defend such nondisclosure orders in court. 
 
·          Requires court approval of minimization procedures for 215 orders for tangible things and for pen/traps. 
 
The full text of the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act is available online .
 
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