Bush Seeks Extension of Sunsetting Provisions of the PATRIOT Act

February 14, 2005. President George Bush spoke at a swearing in ceremony for the new Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. He renewed his call for the Congress to permanently extent all section of the USA PATRIOT Act that are scheduled to sunset at the end of 2005.

Bush said this. "And in return, we must provide you all the tools you need to do your job. And one of those tools is the Patriot Act, which has been vital to our success in tracking terrorists and disrupting their plans. Many key elements of the Patriot Act are now set to expire at the end of this year. We must not allow the passage of time or the illusion of safety to weaken our resolve in this new war. To protect the American people, Congress must promptly renew all provisions of the Patriot Act this year." See, transcript.

President Bush also gave several speeches in April of 2004 in which he advocated extending the sunsetting provisions.

USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001". It was passed quickly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by the 107th Congress as HR 3162. It became Public Law 107-56 on October 26, 2001.

While the PATRIOT Act is a huge bill that addresses a wide range of issues, there are sixteen sections of Title II, which covers electronic surveillance and information technology, that are set to sunset on December 31, 2005. The PATRIOT Act modified numerous sections of the criminal code, which is codified at Title 18, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is codified at 50 U.S.C. 1861, et seq.

The sections of Title II that are scheduled to sunset are as follows"

  201 pertaining to "Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to terrorism"
  202 pertaining to "Authority to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications relating to computer fraud and abuse offenses"
  203(b) pertaining to "Authority to share electronic, wire and oral interception information" of criminal investigations
  203(d) pertaining to sharing "Foreign intelligence information"
  204 pertaining to "Clarification of intelligence exceptions from limitations on interception and disclosure of wire, oral, and electronic communication"
  206 pertaining to "Roving surveillance authority under the FISA"
  207 pertaining to "Duration of FISA surveillance of non-United States persons who are agents of a foreign power"
  209 pertaining to "Seizure of voice-mail messages pursuant to warrants"
  212 pertaining to "Emergency disclosure of electronic communications to protect life and limb"
  214 pertaining to "Pen register and trap and trace authority under FISA"
  215 pertaining to "Access to records and other items under the FISA"
  217 pertaining to "Interception of computer trespasser communications"
  218 pertaining to "Foreign intelligence information"
  220 pertaining to "Nationwide service of search warrants for electronic evidence"
  223 pertaining to "Civil liability for certain unauthorized disclosures"
  225 pertaining to "Immunity for compliance with FISA wiretap".

Action in the 108th Congress. The is no controversy over extending some of these sections. However, in the 108th Congress, several Senators raised objections to extending several provisions. There were also proposals to sunset additions provisions of the Act. The bipartisan group of Senators included Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Lisa Murkowsi (R-AK), and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Several bills were introduced in the 108th Congress on this subject. The two that received the most attention were S 1695 and S 1709.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced S 1695, the "PATRIOT Oversight Restoration Act" on October 1, 2003. See, story titled "Sen. Leahy Introduces Bill to Expand List of Surveillance Provisions of PATRIOT Act to Be Sunsetted" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert 757, October 14, 2003.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced S 1709, the "Security and Freedom Ensured Act of 2003", or SAFE Act, on October 2, 2003. See, story titled "Senators Craig and Durbin Introduce Bill to Modify PATRIOT Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 753, October 6, 2003.

The Leahy and Craig bills would not only reaffirm that many of these sections will sunset, they would also add several additional sections for sunsetting:
  213 pertaining to "Authority for delaying notice of the execution of a warrant"
  216 pertaining to "Modification of authorities relating to use of pen register and trap and trace devices"
  219 pertaining to "Single-jurisdiction search warrants for terrorism"

109th Congress. Sen. Russ Feingold has already reintroduced three of his bills from the 108th Congress.

On February 8, 2005, he introduced S 318, the "Computer Trespass Clarification Act of 2005". See, story titled "Sen. Feingold Introduces Bill Regarding Interception of Computer Trespasser Communications" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,077, February 15, 2005.

On February 8, 2005, he introduced S 316, the "Reasonable Notice and Search Act". See, story titled "Sen. Feingold Introduces Bill to Limit Sneak and Peak Authority" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,077, February 15, 2005.

Also on February 8, 2005, he introduced S 317, the "Library, Bookseller, and Personal Records Privacy Act". See, story titled "Sen. Feingold Introduces Bill To Amend Patriot Act Regarding Library Records and Electronic Communications Providers" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,077, February 15, 2005.