Patriot Act set to expire at end of 2005
Last week, the House voted 251-174 to renew the USA Patriot Act. The conference report was then sent to the Senate. I am disappointed to say that it failed by a vote of 52-47. The House and Senate will now have to negotiate another agreement.
Many have suggested granting an extension of the existing law, allowing the House and Senate more time to reach an agreement because 16 provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire Dec. 31, 2005.
Allowing these provisions to expire would hinder our ability to fight terrorism and would put our information sharing efforts at risk.
Specifically, the conference report provides the tools necessary to protect the American people and win the war on terror. It prevents terrorism by assisting in the detection, disruption and dismantling of terrorist cells before they strike.
One of the things most frustrating to our law enforcement and intelligence officials is that our laws for fighting drug dealers and organized crime are tougher than those to fight potential terrorists.
This conference report ensured that law enforcement has the necessary tools to fight the next “Mohammed Atta.”
The conference report also enhances congressional and judicial oversight. We have worked hard to ensure that no future abuses of the Patriot Act occur, even though neither Congress nor the Justice Department has found an abuse.
The bill passed by the House took great care to promote the freedoms all Americans share while at the same time protecting the civil liberties we hold so dear.
Among the most vital provisions in the conference report were those lowering “the wall” that had prevented law enforcement and the intelligence communities from sharing essential information regarding the planned attacks of Sept. 11.
The reports issued by the 9/11 Congressional Joint Inquiry, the 9/11 Commission, and the WMD Commission each confirmed that our ability to “connect the dots” and prevent terrorist attacks was inhibited by a lack of coordination and information sharing within the federal government.
This section of the Patriot Act has been used by the Justice Department on a regular basis and has been instrumental in fostering increased coordination and information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement personnel over the last three and a half years.
This increased coordination has allowed the FBI to approach terrorism investigations not as separate criminal and intelligence investigations, each with separate agents developing separate information and evidence but as a single investigation.
The conference report also took great care to include new civil liberty protections including: