How did Congress pass extension of U.S. Patriot Act? Ask your doctor

How did Congress pass extension of U.S. Patriot Act? Ask your doctor

Summary: Last Thursday, Congress passed a bill (315-97) without much fanfare, and without any revisions, that extends highly criticized portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, which many have argued is riddled with privacy concerns.


Last Thursday, Congress passed a bill (315-97) without much fanfare, and without any revisions, that extends highly criticized portions of the U.S. Patriot Act, which many have argued is riddled with privacy concerns. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) had several concerns that they wanted addressed. How did that happen?

Jared Kaprove, EPIC Domestic Surveillance Counsel, says the extension of the bill without any modifications is disappointing since a revised U.S. Patriot Act that was bipartisan supported was moving along on its own on Tuesday.

EPIC is disappointed by the way this turned out, because there was a very good bill in the House and a good bill in the Senate, both of which would have tied reauthorization to enhanced protections and greater oversight.  The Obama administration had asked for the provisions to be extended, but had expressed willingness to support the new protections as well.  We're especially disappointed that the proposed reforms to the National Security Letter process won't be implemented, in light of last month's Inspector General report that the FBI had violated its own guidelines, justice department policy, and federal wiretap laws in the process of gathering information ( ).  Given the instances of documented abuse of the power, we would rather that the provisions have been allowed to expire.

And then the roof caved in, H.R. 3961 - Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act of 2009 -was going through the House. Everyone in the House knew about the expiry of the existing extensions of the Patriot Act and thus was slipped as amendments to H.R. 3961. It was either that or watch H.R. 3961 face an uphill battle getting passed on the floor. According to the record, here is how the extension came to the floor as an amendment to H.R. 3961;

Mr. CONYERS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker and Members, this measure before us will extend three provisions of our foreign intelligence surveillance laws for 1 year.

The provisions are section 206 of the PATRIOT Act, governing roving wiretaps; section 215, which addresses the collection of business records; and the so-called ``lone wolf surveillance law.''

[Time: 16:30]

Without extension, these provisions will expire on Sunday coming.

As we consider this short-term extension, I make these observations:

As one who has found that the USA PATRIOT Act needs a great deal of improvement and that there have been many excesses and sometimes abuses of these broad powers over the years, I have found that too little consideration of the impact of this type of surveillance on our civil liberties has been looked into. And that's why the Judiciary Committee has undergone an extensive process over the past year and reported out a bill that attempts to reform these provisions and enhance congressional oversight. In the other body, the Judiciary Committee has also passed out a bill that improves, in my view, the PATRIOT Act. So we're very close to real reform.

The House bill has new protections for library and bookseller records. It clarifies the reach of roving authority to prevent ``John Doe'' blanket wiretaps. It tightens the standards for national security letters that have been abused in the past. It has extensive new reporting oversight and sunset provisions to greatly strengthen congressional oversight and makes other changes to the related provisions of law.

Please understand, Members, that this extension is not the final word on the PATRIOT Act, and what we will do is use the time between now and the year that will elapse to improve and pass real reform. Now, while I would prefer to do this now, it is not to me strategically wise nor logistically possible to accomplish this at this time. And with the provisions expiring in a matter of 3 days, the other body has sent us this extension bill, so there is no reasonable possibility that they could pass a broader measure such as a Judiciary- passed bill at this time.

In other words, we have no other choice but to go along with this extension because there isn't sufficient time. Well, tomorrow is the last day of the week. It's physically impossible. So under these circumstances, it seems to me the best course is to merely maintain the status quo and work with the other body and the administration towards some improvements that I have in mind. I can announce we've made progress towards reaching common ground, and I believe an orderly path forward between now and during the next year will lead us to a much better result.

Now, although this extension doesn't reform underlying law, we recognize there's some value in a process that brings us quickly to another sunset date. Experience has taught that there's nothing like an approaching sunset to bring both the executive branch and the other body to the table with the will to see this resolved. So while I'd rather pass the Judiciary Committee bill out and truly make the reforms that I think are necessary, because of the time constraints that we find, I recommend that we take the next year and continue the process.

I urge your careful consideration of this very important measure.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

The Patriot Act has come under fire by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice review of the FBI.

It is amazing just how fast individual civil and electronic rights can be negotiated away and be tossed about without blinking an eye. Since senior Democratic leaders wanted H.R. 3961 to go through, the President signed it on Saturday. Republicans have a lot of leverage despite not being in control of either house.

Topics: Government US, Government

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  • This is a surprise only

    To people who think liberals tell the truth.
    • Message has been deleted.

      • It was enacted under a Republican President...

        It was voted into law in a rare showing of bipartisanship. Both sides voted it law. I'm glad to see that the Dems who excoriated it during the Bush years now see how important it still is under the Obama administration.

        Kinda glad to know all that, "This Bill should be repealed," stuff was just hot air and puffery.
    • Calling me a liar doesn't get you any points.

      It does suggest a number of unflattering things about you, to me though.
    • When will this childish crap stop?

      "My club is better than your club! nya, nya, nya...."

      Six year olds play better together than our elected politicians... I'm so tired of all the crappy partisan politics! If I had a choice, I'd hang the lot of 'em and start from scratch.

      When are the American people going to stop joining clubs and start holding these elected officials' feet to the fire? We need to start making them take responsibility for all this ignorance.

      This unconstitutional act should NEVER have been allowed in the first place...and to extend it is a slap in the face of the American people...and to hide its extension beneath another bill is, in my opinion, at the very least, dishonest and underhanded.

      I am willing to bet that 90% of the doctors this bill was supposed to work for would have been just fine with waiting another day or another week for it to be passed to keep from having their bill bastardized in this way...

      Wake up America...start shouting at these politicians...Wake up and start making them earn their huge salaries. They work for US...not the other way around.
  • RE: How did Congress pass extension of U.S. Patriot Act? Ask your doctor

    How many Republicans supported it? How many Democrats supported it? I didn't see anyone else report on the story in the news at all.
    • See the links embedded

      The roll call and vote is linked in the article.
      • R vs D Breakdown

        Short of me looking up each congressman's affiliation, that doc won't do any good. It only lists who voted what way, not their party affiliation.
        • sorry, I'm not a secretary......

          You're on your own there :)

          Clearly it went beyond party lines as both sides voted for it or the vote wouldn't have been so lopsided
          • And yet, somehow...

            "Republicans have a lot of leverage despite not being in control of either house."

   still manages to be Republicans' "fault" that this got passed.

            Are the Democrats really so incompetent or ineffective? If so, they have no business governing.

            Carl Rapson
          • Rules are rules

            Senate rules require 60 votes... so you tell me what is competent, the process or those that can leverage rules to make it seem incompetent..
          • Then it seems to me...

            ...that if the majority party is having to "deal" with the minority party to get something passed, the system is working pretty well. Checks and balances, and all that.

            Carl Rapson
  • This is not a new story.

    I wonder what I would have done in their shoes.

    Tough to say. I think I owul dhave objected and voted against but with all teh acrimony and pressure, thinking gets skewed.
  • "Liberals"? Try "politicians".

    This is a surprise only to people who think politicians have the best interests of citizens uppermost in mind.

    People who blame "liberals" or "conservatives" or this or that political party haven't been paying attention for the past twenty years. The only political party that stands for anything is the Libertarian Party, and they do not win national elections because voters are idiots who would prefer to cheer for this or that "team", when the only difference between Republicans and Democrats is the color of their neckties.
    • @bblackmoor

      You hit he nail on the head. INHO.
    • Well said!

  • Congress pass extension of U.S. Patriot Act by the will of their masters!

    America, home of illusionary freedom. Oh, what a joke you have become!
    • Where in the world do you live?

      Illusionary or otherwise...where do you live that you have more freedom than in America?

      It's not perfect...but it's still the best there is.
  • RE: How did Congress pass extension of U.S. Patriot Act? Ask your doctor

    I am one that is glad it "passed" and that the so-called concerned critters weren't able to get their smelly mitts on handles that would have allowed them to slow down to the point of uselessness, nearly ALL of the Patriot Act provisions.
    There is no "will of the people" or consideration OF the people in gvt circles, so that's one excuse that goes out the window quickly.
    For those with nothing to hide it's a clear, sunny world. If evidence you doesn't exist, you have nothing to worry about here. But if you DO have things to hide, YOU are the one I want to see tapped and trapped!

    I know this will rile a bunch of people, but I would much rather have the next terrorist sitting in jail when I board that plane, train, subway they are about to blow up and themselves with it. And YES, I DO have the very occasional opportunity to have so speak to people in Iraq and two other countries over there. But absolutely nothing suspicious or "funny" or "coded" happens in those conversations. If they get tapped, then so be it.

    Let's be realistic and suggest others accept reality as I and so many others do. The only difference is, I'm not afraid to speak up, for OR against, my government's actions. Either you're part of the success or you're part of the problem. Or, as most are, you're afraid to say anything everyone else is saying. Too bad, really.
    • I beg to differ

      Do you really believe that having government chew away at your freedom will result in your having more security? It doesn't work that way, and it never has. Try reading a little history.