December 04, 2006

Wyden Opposed Patriot Act Legislation in Intel Committee, Will Seek Further Changes

Senator says final product of Committee failed to address his concernson balancing security, privacy, civil liberties

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) opposed the Patriot Act legislation that was completed in a closed hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday, and says today that the bill as drafted fails to meet his goal of preserving Americans' privacy and civil liberties while protecting the nation aggressively against terrorism. On Monday, Wyden spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate to detail his concerns, particularly with a proposal to grant broad administrative subpoena power to the FBI. He also cited concerns with the FBI's use of roving wiretaps, and several other controversial provisions set to sunset at the end of this year. In his speech, Wyden proposed an alternative to administrative subpoena power that would give the FBI the flexibility it needs to conduct investigations while offering more protection for Americans' privacy. "I do not believe the Intelligence Committee - working in secret - has struck the proper balance between protecting the nation and preserving liberty, and I will work on the Senate floor to improve this legislation," said Wyden. "Instead of granting the FBI unnecessarily broad subpoena power, sensible solutions like an emergency-use provision on warrants should be included as the bill moves forward. Americans want the Patriot Act to provide protection from terrorism, not a laundry list of loopholes that expose them to abuses of investigative power." In his Monday floor speech, Wyden said existing Patriot Act provisions such as Section 215 - known as the "library records" provision but which actually provide access to all kinds of business records pertaining to every American - should be subject to closer scrutiny and should still be subject to a sunset in the renewed Patriot Act, giving Congress a chance to modify or cut off the controversial powers if abuses are found. Wyden also included the provision allowing for the use of National Security Letters in his list of concerns As a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Wyden has sought to open to the hearings of the committee to consider the Patriot Act's renewal. Last month Wyden sent a letter to Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) and Vice Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) calling for the committee's proceedings to be opened.