House, Senate Reach Deal on Patriot Act

A House-Senate conference committee has hammered out a compromise on renewing the USA Patriot Act. Senator Russ Feingold has threatened a filibuster and several of his colleagues, including some Republicans, have indicated their displeasure with the deal.

House, Senate Reach Deal on Patriot Act (AP)

House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Thursday to extend the USA Patriot Act, the government’s premier anti-terrorism law, before it expires at the end of the month. But a Democratic senator threatened a filibuster to block the compromise. “I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms,” said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who was the only senator to vote against the original version of the Patriot Act.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced Thursday that a House-Senate negotiating committee had reached an agreement that would extend for four years two of the Patriot Act’s most controversial provisions — authorizing roving wiretaps and permitting secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Those provisions would expire in four years unless Congress acts on them again. “All factors considered it’s reasonably good, not perfect, but it’s acceptable,” Specter said of the agreement.

Also to be extended for four years are standards for monitoring “lone wolf” terrorists who may be operating independent of a foreign agent or power. While not part of the Patriot Act, officials considered that along with the Patriot Act provisions.

The Republican-controlled House had been pushing for those provisions to stay in effect as long as a decade, but negotiators decided to go with the GOP-controlled Senate’s suggestion. Most of the Patriot Act would become permanent under the reauthorization.

Feingold is not alone in his dislike of the compromise. “We believe this conference report will not be able to get through the Senate,” said a group of six senators, including Feingold, who have been working against the emerging deal. They said they will not support it in any form. The other senators are Republicans Larry Craig of Idaho, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

My guess is this will ultimately pass, as anything packaged as an anti-terrorism package is difficult to vote against, let alone filiibuster. Ironically, most of the civil liberties qualms people have with the domestic aspects of post-9/11 counterterrorism are not actually part of the Act.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RA says:

    Please, let them filibuster. It will make great campaign commercials against these friends and protectors of terror.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Wonder if RA would be as excited about the patriot act if he were the recipient of a National Security letter.

    Of course he probably does not know what that is, he is simply trusting the Bush admin to use the great power of the patriot act wisely based on their superb performance on the budget, katrina, war in Iraq, etc…

  3. Herb says:


    Why do you ALWAYS seem to support the terrorists?

    Is it because you always have something negative about everything.

    One thing I can say about Anjin, That is “He is not prejudiced, He hates everybody”

  4. anjin-san says:

    “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

  5. jimbo says:

    It is a shame your comments section so quickly deteriorates into name calling.

    Anyway, non-state Islamic terrorism presents us with problems not covered by criminal justice as usual and warfare according to the Geneva Conventions. As you say, the Patriot Act takes the blame for a lot of things happening in the GWOT that people don’t like. Historians may well find that these drastic measures had little effect on the course of things. If we succeed it will probably be because the war in Iraq ultimately leads to a change in the culture of the Islamic world.

  6. Ro-Rock says:

    I am sick of this Feingold character–he is about as anti-American as they come. It would be cool to see Bush issue him a summons and have him waterboarded in the Potomac until he shapes up!