BREAKING NEWS ~ Bush signs Patriot Act renewal

BREAKING NEWS ~ Bush signs Patriot Act renewal

[JURIST] President Bush has signed legislation [signing statement] to renew the USA PATRIOT Act [PDF text; White House backgrounder], making permanent several sunsetting provisions in the anti-terror law, extending two provisions until 2009, and incorporating a number of new rights protections. Bush approved two separate but related bills: the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 [HR 3199 PDF text; DOJ fact sheet], the actual renewal that reflects the conference report [PDF text] agreed to by Congress last December, and the USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006 [S. 2271 PDF text], a series of amendments to the renewal legislation reflecting a recent compromise agreement [PDF summary; JURIST report] to incorporate more civil liberties protections.

Sixteen key provisions [DOJ report, PDF] of the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive] were set to expire at the end of last year, but members of Congress were initially unable to reach agreement on the terms of the renewal, prompting instead two short-term extensions [JURIST report], the latest of which was to expire March 10. Fourteen of these provisions now become permanent and the remaining two provisions – Section 206 on "roving" wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Section 215 on subpoenas under FISA – will now expire in 2009. Additional civil liberties safeguards built into the renewal include allowing recipients of Section 215 subpoenas for information in terror investigations to be able to challenge the accompanying gag order; eliminating a requirement that people who receive National Security Letters (NSL) [sample text, PDF; ACLU backgrounder] must provide the FBI the names of lawyers consulted about the NSL; and clarifying current law to ensure that libraries functioning in their traditional roles would not be subject to NSLs. AP has more.

The debate on whether the Patriot Act and the renewal legislation provide adequate protections against intrusions on privacy is not over, however. Last week, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and several other senators introduced a proposal [S. 2369 PDF text; bill summary] to "enhance the civil liberty protections contained in the USA Patriot Act." The proposal would:

  • require that the target of delayed-notice search warrants receive notification within seven days of the execution of the warrant;
  • implement a three-part test to obtain a Section 215 order, requiring the government to provide more information before obtaining the order;
  • eliminate the "conclusive presumption" of the government's certification of threats to national security for judicial review of NSL nondisclosure requirements; and
  • add a four-year sunset to NSL provisions in the conference report.

Read Specter's press release.

4:10 PM ET – During the ceremony to sign the renewal legislation, President Bush said:

The Patriot Act has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do. It has helped us detect terror cells, disrupt terrorist plots and save American lives. The bill I sign today extends these vital provisions. It also gives our nation new protections and added defenses.

This legislation creates a new position of Assistant Attorney General for National Security. This will allow the Justice Department to bring together its national security, counterterrorism, counterintelligence and foreign intelligence surveillance operations under a single authority. This reorganization fulfills one of the critical recommendations of the WMD Commission: It will help our brave men and women in law enforcement connect the dots before the terrorists strike.

Read the full text of Bush's remarks. AP has more.