Congressional Record: February 9, 2006 (Senate)
Page S969-S970                         

                            PATRIOT ACT DEAL

  Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I understand that some of my friends and 
colleagues in this body have come to an agreement with the White House 
on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.
  While I respect these Senators greatly, I am gravely disappointed in 
this so-called deal. The White House agreed to only a few minor changes 
to the PATRIOT Act conference report that could not get through the 
Senate back in December. These changes do not address the major 
problems with the PATRIOT Act that a bipartisan coalition has been 
trying to fix for the past several years. We have come too far and 
fought too hard to agree to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act without fixing 
those problems. A few insignificant changes just doesn't cut it. I 
cannot support this deal, and I will do everything I can to stop it.
  I understand the pressure that my colleagues have been under on this 
issue, and I appreciate all the hard work that they have done on the 
PATRIOT Act. It has been very gratifying to work on a bipartisan basis 
on this issue. It is unfortunate that the White House is so obviously 
trying to make this into a partisan issue, because it sees some 
political advantage to doing so. Whether the White House likes it or 
not, this will continue to be an issue where both Democrats and 
Republicans have concerns, and we will continue to work together for 
changes to the law. I am sure of that.

[[Page S970]]

  But I will also continue to strongly oppose any reauthorization of 
the PATRIOT Act that does not protect the rights and freedoms of law-
abiding Americans with no connection to terrorism. This deal does not 
meet that standard; it doesn't even come close.
  The PATRIOT Act conference report, combined with the few changes 
announced today, does not address the core issues that our bipartisan 
group of Senators have been concerned about for the last several years. 
The modest but critical changes we have been pushing are not included. 
I am not talking about new issues. We are talking about the same issues 
that concerned us when we first introduced the SAFE Act more than 2 
years ago to fix the PATRIOT Act. And we have laid them out in detail 
in several different letters over the past few months.
  First, and most importantly, the deal does not ensure that the 
government can only obtain the library, medical and other sensitive 
business records of people who have some link to suspected terrorists. 
This is the section 215 issue, which has been at the center of this 
debate over the PATRIOT Act. Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows the 
government to obtain secret court orders in domestic intelligence 
investigations to get all kinds of business records about people, 
including not just library records but also medical records and various 
other types of business records. The Senate bill that this body passed 
by unanimous consent back in July would have ensured that the 
government cannot use this power to go after someone who has no 
connection whatsoever to a terrorist or spy or their activities. The 
conference report replaces the Senate test with a simple relevance 
standard, which is not adequate protection against a fishing 
expedition. And the deal struck today leaves that provision of the 
conference report unchanged.
  Second, the deal does not provide meaningful judicial review of the 
gag orders placed on recipients of section 215 business records orders 
and National Security Letters. Under the deal, such review can only 
take place after a year has passed and can only be successful if the 
recipient proves that that government has acted in bad faith. The deal 
ignores the serious first amendment problem with the gag rule under 
current law. In fact, it arguably makes the law worse in this area.
  And third, the deal does not ensure that when government agents 
secretly break into the homes of Americans to do a so-called sneak and 
peek search, they tell the owners of those homes in most circumstances 
within 7 days, as courts have said they should, and as the Senate bill 
  As I understand it, this deal only makes a few small changes. It 
would permit judicial review of a section 215 gag order, but under 
conditions that would make it very difficult for anyone to obtain 
meaningful judicial review. It would state specifically that the 
government can serve National Security Letters on libraries if the 
library comes within the current requirements of the NSL statute, a 
provision that as I read it, just restates current law. And it would 
clarify that people who receive a National Security Letter would not 
have to tell the FBI if they consult with an attorney. This last change 
is a positive step, but it is only one relatively minor change.
  So this deal comes nowhere near the significant, but very reasonable, 
changes in the law that I believe are a necessary part of any 
reauthorization package. We weren't asking for much. We weren't even 
asking for changes that would get us close to the bill that this body 
passed without objection last July. But the White House would not be 
reasonable and has forced a deal that is not satisfactory in an effort 
to serve their partisan purposes. I will oppose it, and I will fight