Special Reports
Senators introduce PATRIOT Act fixes to safeguard Americans� rights

Sep 18, 2009, 00:16

JUSTICE Act, introduced on Constitution Day 2009, would fix long standing problems with the PATRIOT Act and other surveillance laws

September 17, 2009
4:02 PM

Zach Lowe (Feingold) - (202) 224-8657
Max Gleischman (Durbin) - (202) 228-5244
Patrick Devlin (Tester) - (202) 224-2644
Marissa Padilla (Udall) - (202) 224-6621
Jude McCartin (Bingaman) - (202) 224-1804
Will Wiquist (Sanders) - (202) 228-6357
Jesse Broder Van Dyke (Akaka) - (202) 224-7045
Mary Conley (Wyden) - (202) 224-3789

WASHINGTON - September 17 -- U.S. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have introduced legislation to fix problems with surveillance laws that threaten the rights and liberties of American citizens. The Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act would reform the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act and other surveillance authorities to protect Americans� constitutional rights, while preserving the powers of our government to fight terrorism.

The JUSTICE Act reforms include more effective checks on government searches of Americans� personal records, the �sneak and peek� search provision of the PATRIOT Act, �John Doe� roving wiretaps and other overbroad authorities. The bill will also reform the FISA Amendments Act, passed last year, by repealing the retroactive immunity provision, preventing �bulk collection� of the contents of Americans� international communications, and prohibiting �reverse targeting� of innocent Americans. And the bill enables better oversight of the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) after the Department of Justice Inspector General issued reports detailing the misuse and abuse of the NSLs. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, September 23rd, on reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.

�Every single member of Congress wants to give our law enforcement and intelligence officials the tools they need to keep Americans safe,� said Feingold. �But with the PATRIOT Act up for reauthorization, we should take this opportunity to fix the flaws in our surveillance laws once and for all. The JUSTICE Act permits the government to conduct necessary surveillance, but within a framework of accountability and oversight. It ensures both that our government has the tools to keep us safe, and that the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans will be protected. When he was in the Senate, President Obama was a strong ally on these issues, and I look forward to working with his administration to find common ground on commonsense reforms.�

�The Government must use every legal tool available to protect us from the threat of global terrorism. But when those tools override Americans� fundamental rights and liberties, we run the very real risk of never getting them back,� Durbin said. �As we move toward reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, we�re proposing commonsense changes to better protect our most basic constitutional rights. Our bill strikes a careful balance between the law enforcement powers needed to combat terrorism and the legal protections required to safeguard American liberties.�

�Like a lot of Montanans, I have serious concerns about the PATRIOT Act and how it was implemented,� Tester said. �What this bill will do is add commonsense so we can fight terrorism without ignoring the Constitution and without invading the privacy and civil rights of law-abiding Americans.�

�In recent years, I believe our government has failed to protect the constitutional right to privacy for American citizens,� Tom Udall said. �The JUSTICE Act strikes the right balance between respecting the needs of our law enforcement to pursue suspected terrorists and upholding the rights of law-abiding citizens to live free from unnecessary government intrusion in their lives. I firmly believe we can keep our nation secure without infringing on the inherent rights of the American people. �

�We must provide law enforcement with the tools they need to protect our country, and do so in a way that also safeguards Americans� rights. This legislation addresses both of these important objectives by ensuring our security and upholding our cherished constitutional protections,� Bingaman said.

�Every American understands that we have got to do every single thing we can to protect the American people from terrorist attacks. There is no debate about that. Some of us believe, however, that we can be successful in doing that while we uphold the rule of law, while we uphold the Constitution of this country, which has made us the envy of the world,� Sanders said.

Senator Akaka said: �The JUSTICE Act will allow intelligence agents to monitor terrorism suspects while putting checks in place to ensure that law-abiding Americans� privacy and civil liberties are protected.�

�The JUSTICE Act rights some of the basic wrongs of the PATRIOT Act, which became a poster child for the Bush Administration�s lack of respect for Americans� privacy rights,� said Wyden. �This bill is designed to keep every law-abiding American free from arbitrary government surveillance. At the same time, it gives law enforcement the agility needed to go after actual terrorists and spies who would do our country harm.�

Fact Sheet JUSTICE Act Of 2009

The Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act would reform the USA PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendments Act and other surveillance authorities to protect the constitutional rights of Americans while ensuring the government has the powers it needs to fight terrorism and collect intelligence.

Title I - Reasonable Safeguards to Protect the Privacy of Americans� Records

Sections 101-106 - National Security Letters

The bill rewrites the National Security Letter (NSL) statutes to ensure the FBI can obtain basic information without a court order, but also adds reasonable safeguards to ensure NSLs are only used to obtain records of people who have some connection to terrorism or espionage, and to provide meaningful, constitutionally sound judicial review of NSLs and associated gag orders.

Section 107 - Section 215 Orders

The bill would reauthorize the use of Section 215 business records orders under FISA, but with additional checks and balances to ensure these orders are only used to obtain records of people who have some connection to terrorism or espionage, and to provide meaningful, constitutionally sound judicial review of Section 215 orders and associated gag orders.

Title II - Reasonable Safeguards to Protect the Privacy of Americans� Homes

Section 201 - �Sneak & Peek� Searches

The bill would retain the Patriot Act�s authorization of �sneak and peek� criminal searches but eliminate the overbroad catch-all provision that allows these secret searches in virtually any criminal case. It would shorten the presumptive time limits for notification, and create a statutory exclusionary rule.

Title III - Reasonable Safeguards to Protect the Privacy of Americans� Communications

Section 301 - FISA Roving Wiretaps

The bill would reauthorize roving FISA wiretaps, but eliminate the possibility of �John Doe� roving wiretaps that identify neither the person nor the phone to be wiretapped. It would require agents to ascertain the presence of the target of a roving wiretap before beginning surveillance.

Section 302 - Pen Registers and Trap and Trace Devices

The bill would retain the Patriot Act�s expansion of the FISA and criminal pen/trap authorities to cover electronic communications, but would allow pen/traps to be used only to obtain information about people who have some connection to terrorism or espionage. It would impose additional procedural safeguards to serve as a check on these authorities.

Section 303 - Telecommunications Immunity

The bill would repeal the retroactive immunity provision in the FISA Amendments Act.

Section 304 - Bulk Collection

The bill retains the new warrantless authorities in the FISA Amendments Act but would prevent the government from using that law to conduct �bulk collection� of the contents of communications, including all communications between the United States and the rest of the world.

Section 305 - Reverse Targeting

The bill would ensure that the overseas warrantless collection authorities of the FISA Amendments Act are not used as a pretext to target Americans in the U.S.

Section 306 - Use of Unlawfully Obtained Information

The bill would limit the government�s use of information about Americans obtained under FISA Amendments Act procedures that the FISA Court later determines to be unlawful, while giving the court flexibility to allow such information to be used in appropriate cases.

Section 307 - Protections for International Communications of Americans

The bill would amend the FISA Amendments Act to create safeguards for communications not related to terrorism that the government knows have one end in the United States.

Section 308 - Computer Trespass

The bill would guard against abuse of a warrantless surveillance authority in the Patriot Act that allows computer owners who are subject to denial of service attacks or other episodes of hacking to give the government permission to monitor trespassers on their systems.

Title IV - Improvements to Further Congressional and Judicial Oversight

Section 401 - FISA Public Reporting

The bill would require limited additional public reporting on the use of FISA.

Section 402 - Use of FISA Evidence

The bill would apply the Classified Information Procedures Act to the use of FISA evidence in criminal cases, and allow the use of protective orders and other security measures in civil cases, to ensure that courts have discretion to allow litigants access to information where appropriate while still protecting sensitive information.

Section 403 - Nationwide Court Orders

The bill would permit a recipient of a nationwide court order to challenge it either in the district where it was issued or in the district where the recipient is located.

Title V - Improvements to Further Effective, Focused Investigations

Section 501 - Domestic Terrorism

The Patriot Act�s overbroad definition of domestic terrorism could cover acts of civil disobedience by political organizations. The bill would limit the qualifying offenses for domestic terrorism to those that constitute a federal crime of terrorism.

Section 502 - Material Support

The bill would amend the overly broad criminal definition of material support for terrorism by specifying that a person must know or intend the support provided will be used for terrorist activity.

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