First, the big news: Patriot act reauthorization will be voted on next week in SJC.
For today, the mark up of the Patriot Act reform bills conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee started in a disappointing fashion by way of an amendment–passed without any discussion– substituting Committee Chairman Leahy’s base bill with a Leahy-Feinstein bill watering down civil liberties protections.
EFF reports that there is somewhat of a silver lining, but there is still some bad news:
Intel will not be asserting jurisdiction over the PATRIOT renewal process and doing its own bill, which would ultimately be much worse than anything coming out of Judiciary. The bad is that the negotiated bill has even fewer PATRIOT reforms than the original Leahy bill, which already had much fewer reforms than the Feingold/Durbin JUSTICE bill. The reforms that the bill does contain, like the Leahy bill before it, only address PATRIOT and do not address reform of the FISA Amendments Act at all, unlike JUSTICE.
Glenn Greenwald relays an even more disappointing perspective by way of Mike German, long-time former FBI agent and current Policy Counsel at the ACLU, who notes that “There is still a chance amendments can be made to insert provisions of the Feingold bill, but the starting point is much closer to the status quo” [bolding in original].
The uphill battle against the status quo was evident in a failed Durbin amendment “based on JUSTICE, which would raise the standard for the issuance of PATRIOT Section 215 orders for business records.” A sneak and peak amendment from Feingold did pass though, changing the number of days the government can delay notice to a searched party to 7 from 30.
The committee has moved onto other business without considering other amendments; Senator Leahy insists that any remaining amendments (Feingold says he has 2 or 3) and a vote on final passage of the bill should occur at next Thursday’s meeting.
This still remains our best chance yet for meaningful PATRIOT Act reform, and the fight for our civil liberties goes on!