Do the Right Thing, Senator Specter

A majority of the Senate has concluded that 4 year sunsets do not constitute real PATRIOT Act reform. We agree. With the Bush administration pushing to retain the status quo, we need Senator Specter on board.

According to a December 2nd article in Congress Daily, a majority of the U.S. Senate is “prepared to support a filibuster against reauthorizing 16 expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act unless significant changes are made.” Sarah Lai Stirland wrote in the subscription-only publication of National Journal that:

“Just prior to the Thanksgiving recess, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said that he was pushing to change the so-called sunset provisions for the most controversial provisions of the legislation to four years from the current seven — at which point he would be prepared to sign off on the bill.

But a Democratic aide familiar with the ongoing negotiations said such a move would not be sufficient to head off a filibuster. The aide said the head count showing a majority would support a filibuster was taken just prior to Thanksgiving, and indicated there had been no changes in position since then.

Specifically, the group wanted the conferees to change Section 215 of the bill, which covers FBI access to library patron and business customer records; Section 505, which covers secret subpoenas known as “National Security Letters“; and Section 213, which covers delayed notice search warrants.”

At the very least, the restoration of checks and balances must include a link between records sought and a terrorism investigation, a judicial review of gag orders and 7 day notification of a “sneak and peak” search. Is that so much to ask?

The conference committee will reconvene on December 12th. Before they do, we need to let Senator Specter know that 4 year sunsets are not enough to move the bill out of committee. While you’re at it, how about calling your representative and Senator Santorum, too?

In the words of the Reading (PA) Eagle: “there’s still a chance to do the right thing.”

Amy Laura, Philadelphia Office