Colorado lawmaker questions Patriot Act renewal
May 25, 2011
DENVER – Two U.S. senators are calling on the Obama administration to disclose how it interprets the Patriot Act as an extension of the act nears a vote in Congress.
Colorado Democrat Mark Udall and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden say these are dangerous times, but they believe the administration can disclose its interpretation of the law without disclosing methods.
“It’s time to end the use of secret law,” Wyden said in a conference call on Tuesday.
The key provisions expire Friday and the Obama administration said the extension is necessary to keep the laws in place.
At issue are provisions that allow the use of roving wiretaps, access to business records believed relevant to terrorist investigations and secret surveillance of non-U.S. individuals without the government having to show a connection between the target and a specific terrorist group.
The legislation would extend three expiring provisions until June 1, 2015.
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Amendments proposed by Udall and Wyden would require the FBI to show a connection to terrorism when seeking a court order for business records, eliminate the possibility of “John Doe” roving wiretaps that do not identify the person or the phone to be wiretapped, and require the attorney general to notify Congress of applications for secret surveillance when there is no connection to a specific terrorist group.
Udall said there is no need to extend the law until 2015 with little debate. He said Congress rushed through the Patriot Act following the Sept. 11 attacks and “it feels like leadership is rushing the process again.” He said Congress could approve a short-term extension until there can be more debate.
Some lawmakers say the legislation is less necessary now that al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is dead.
Wyden said sources and methods should be kept secret, “but laws should not be kept secret.”
“A secret law can only be fixed by being open and honest with the American people,” he said.