The Senate Judiciary Committee held an Executive Business Meeting yesterday to consider legislation to reauthorize the three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. You can view the Webcast of the mark-up here.
The original bill scheduled to be considered, the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2009 (S. 1692), would raise the standard for all Section 215 orders by requiring that the government demonstrate a connection between the tangible records they seek and a suspected terrorist, and add more meaningful judicial review of Section 215 orders and the associated gag orders.
Prior to the mark-up, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), one of the original co-sponsors of S. 1692 along with Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-DE), negotiated a new bill with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The substitute bill, which is also co-sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Amy Klobucher (D-MN) weakens several provisions of the original bill, including certain protections for civil liberties. It also drops the higher Section 215 standards for business records that were in the original bill, with the exception of library records.
Although we are disappointed with the weaker language, AALL is pleased that we did get the higher standard for libraries included in the negotiated bill. The Judiciary Committee will hold another mark-up next Thursday and we will keep you updated on the status of the reauthorization legislation.
[Posted by Emily Feldman]