Senate Rejects Extension of Patriot Act
- Associated Press

In a stinging defeat for President Bush, Senate Democrats blocked
passage Friday of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism at home,
depicting the measure as a threat to the constitutional liberties of
innocent Americans.

Republicans spurned calls for a short-term measure to prevent the
year-end expiration of law enforcement powers first enacted in the
anxious days after Sept. 11, 2001. "The president will not sign
such an extension," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.,
and lawmakers on each side of the issue blamed the other for
congressional gridlock on the issue.

The Senate voted 52-47 to advance a House-passed bill to a final
vote, eight short of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster backed
by nearly all Senate Democrats and a handful of the 45 Republicans.

"We can come together to give the government the tools it needs to
fight terrorism and protect the rights and freedoms of innocent
citizens," said Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., arguing that
provisions permitting government access to confidential personal
data lacked safeguards to protect the innocent.

"We need to be more vigilant," agreed Sen. John Sununu, a
Republican from New Hampshire, where the state motto is "Live Free
or Die." He quoted Benjamin Franklin: "Those that would give up
essential liberty in pursuit of a little temporary security deserve
neither liberty nor security."

But Frist likened the bill's opponents to those who "have called for
a retreat and defeat strategy in Iraq. That's the wrong strategy in
Iraq. It is the wrong strategy here at home."

Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., said, "If 90-plus percent of the Democrats
vote against cloture, and 90-plus percent of the Republicans vote
for cloture, it is hard to argue it is not partisan." Cloture is a
Senate term that refers to ending a filibuster.

The practical implications of an expiration of the original law
remained somewhat clouded. James Dempsey, executive director of the
Center for Democracy and Technology, said law enforcement agencies
could continue using Patriot Act provisions against all known
terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad
and the Zarqawi group in Iraq. He said even newly discovered
members of these groups would be subject to Patriot Act
investigative tools.

The events on the Senate floor underscored the extent of political
change that has occurred since 2001. Then, Feingold cast the lone
vote against the original Patriot Act, which was designed to give
those tracking terrorists some of the authority that had been
available only in intelligence investigations.

Much of the controversy involved powers granted to law enforcement
agencies to gain access to a wealth of personal data, including
library and medical records, in secret, as part of investigations
into suspected terrorist activity.

The bill also includes a four-year extension of the government's
ability to conduct roving wiretaps - which may involve multiple
phones - and continues the authority to wiretap "lone wolf"
terrorists who may operate on their own, without control from a
foreign agent or power.

Yet another provision, which applies to all criminal cases, gives
the government 30 days to provide notice that it has carried out a
search warrant.

During debate, several Democrats pointed to a New York Times report
that Bush had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to
eavesdrop on individuals inside the United States without first
securing permission from the courts.

"Today's revelation makes it crystal clear that we have to be very
careful, very careful," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

No Republican defended the reported practice, and the bill's chief
Republican supporter joined in the criticism. "There is no doubt
that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.,
chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He pledged hearings in

Under the measure the Senate was considering, law enforcement
officials could continue to obtain secret access to a variety of
personal records from businesses, hospitals and other organizations,
including libraries.

Access is obtained by order of a secret court established under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Specter told the bill's critics that before such permission is
granted, a judge would have to "make a determination on a factual
showing that there is a terrorism investigation that does involve

On a second issue covered under the bill, a so-called National
Security Letter, government investigators could continue to gain
access to a more limited range of personal records without a court
order of any kind.

Specter said the legislation permitted the recipient of a letter to
appeal in court. "The essence of the protection of civil rights ...
has been that you interpose an impartial magistrate between the
policeman and the citizens. That protection is given," he said.

But Sununu countered that the appeal could only succeed by showing
that the government had acted in bad faith. "No individual or
business is going to be able to" win that case, he predicted.

On the Senate vote, two Democrats supported the GOP-led effort to
advance the bill to a final vote, Tim Johnson of South Dakota and
Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Sununu and GOP Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho,
Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted to block
the measure. Frist initially voted to advance the bill, then
switched to opposition purely as a parliamentary move that enables
him to call for a second vote at some point in the future.

On a separate issue, the House called for the Bush administration to
give Congress details of secret detention facilities overseas. The
vote was 228-187.