A senior Justice Department official defended the PATRIOT Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday at the same time as two senators critical of the legislation, speedily passed after the September 11 attacks, promoted a bipartisan amending statute. Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified that the PATRIOT Act has provided law enforcement with the tools needed to combat terrorism within the bounds of the constitution; in response, Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), testified in favor of bill S. 1709, also known as the SAFE Act (Security and Freedom Through Encryption) which they claimed would maintain law enforcement powers in a way that protected important civil liberties.
Craig noted, for example, that the SAFE Act would require search warrants to have a seven day limit, and that law enforcement officials would only be able to obtain records of people who are actual suspects of terrorism. Former Congressman Bob Barr also appeared before the Committee, criticizing the PATRIOT Act on behalf of the ACLU (press release here). Transcripts of the hearing are available from the Committee here. Govexec.com has more.