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Sen. Leahy urges three-month renewal of Patriot Act sunset instead of GOP alternative (2/4)

Previous Politech message:

Text of conference report:


Senator Patrick Leahy,

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Statement On Introduction Of A Bill

To Extend Expiring PATRIOT Act Powers

December 12, 2005

Mr. LEAHY.  On a September morning four years ago nearly 3,000 lives 
were lost on American soil, and our lives as Americans changed in an 
instant.  In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Congress moved swiftly 
to pass anti-terrorism legislation.  The fires were still smoldering at 
Ground Zero in New York City when the USA PATRIOT Act became law on 
October 30, 2001, just six weeks after the attacks.

Many of us here in the Senate today worked together in a spirit of 
bipartisan unity and resolve to craft a bill that we had hoped would 
make us safer as a Nation.  Freedom and security are always in tension 
in our society, and especially so in those somber weeks after the 
attacks, and we tried our best to strike the right balance.

One of the fruits of that bipartisanship was the PATRIOT Act’s sunset 
provisions.  These key provisions set an expiration date of December 31, 
2005, on certain government powers that had great potential to affect 
the civil liberties of the American people.  Republican House Majority 
Leader Dick Armey and I insisted on these sunsets to ensure that 
Congress would revisit the PATRIOT Act within a few years and consider 
refinements to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans more 
effectively, and we prevailed.

Sadly, the Bush Administration and the Republican congressional 
leadership have squandered key opportunities to improve the PATRIOT Act. 
  The House-Senate conference report filed last week by Republican 
lawmakers falls short of what the American people expect and deserve 
from us.  The bipartisan Senate bill, which the Senate Judiciary 
Committee and then the Senate adopted unanimously, struck a far better 

The reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act must have the confidence of the 
American people.  The Congress should not rush ahead to enact flawed 
legislation to meet a deadline that is within our power to extend.  We 
owe it to the American people to get this right.

The way forward to a sensible and workable bipartisan bill is clear. 
Today I am pleased to join with Senator Sununu and others to introduce a 
bill to extend the sunsets on the expiring PATRIOT Act powers until 
March 31, 2006.  Our bill also extends for three months the so-called 
“lone wolf” FISA surveillance authority, which Congress enacted last 
year as part the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act.

The deadline that Congress imposed to ensure oversight and 
accountability should not now become a barrier to achieving bipartisan 
compromise and the best bill we can forge together.  This is a vital 
debate, and these are vital issues to all Americans.  If a brief 
extension is needed to produce a better bill that will better serve all 
of our citizens, then by all means, let us give ourselves that time.

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Posted by Declan McCullagh on Dec 12, 2005 in category privacy

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