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Public Statements

USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 - 1

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


USA PATRIOT AND TERRORISM PREVENTION REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 21, 2005)

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, we live in a democracy where we respect checks and balances. The PATRIOT Act is part of a pattern of lacking checks and balances. Military tribunals, not part of the PATRIOT Act but part of a pattern of reduced checks and balances. Military tribunals were presented with no public trials, no presumption of innocence, no guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Secret evidence could be used, no judicial review.

Part of that pattern is the enemy combatant where the administration designates someone as an enemy combatant, can arrest them and hold them indefinitely without charges, never having an opportunity to contest the allegations.

We have seen material witnesses, people arrested under the material witness laws, held indefinitely, no charges.

That is the context that we are considering the PATRIOT Act. Those are not in the PATRIOT Act, but we are considering the PATRIOT Act in that context.

We considered a bill on the same day of the second bombing in Great Britain with no money for port security, no money to secure our rails or bus transportation, no money for first responders.

Mr. Chairman, I oppose this bill, frankly not so much for what is in the bill but for what is not in the bill, what we are not going to do today. We can have plenty of privacy without threatening security, and we missed an opportunity to require standards for wiretaps and "sneak and peak" searches. We missed an opportunity to require probable cause of a crime before invading people's privacy. We missed the opportunity to limit these provisions and extraordinary powers to terrorism.

Ninety percent of the "sneak and peak" searches have nothing to do with terrorism. Remember that when the government invades one's privacy, it is not robots and computers; it is government employees who may be neighbors looking at one's medical records, listening to their private conversations, sneaking and peaking into their homes without their knowledge or consent. The PATRIOT Act gives broad expansive powers to government agents to invade privacy.

The major check on any abuse in the act has been the sunset provisions. Provisions will expire if they are abused. During our deliberations, we got a lot of cooperation on those provisions that are sunsetting. When asked information on those, we got the information. Some of it came in right before the hearing, but because of the sunset we got a lot of cooperation. Because of the sunset we found no abuses in the libraries. That is because of the sunset. Although government agencies have gone to at least 200 libraries for information, that has not been abused because they know if they abused it they would lose the benefit of that provision.

Medical records have not been abused. There has not been any unnecessary sharing of sensitive information of a personal nature. We have not run criminal investigations without probable cause using the provisions of the PATRIOT Act. They could have, because of the broad discretion in the bill, but they did not, because of the sunset.

Without the sunset provision, the abuse could take place. Fourteen of the 16 sunset provisions are removed, and the two that are left, 10-year sunsets, which will get us through this administration, clean through the next Presidential term and most of the way through the next.

Mr. Chairman, we need to defeat this bill, go back to the Committee on the Judiciary and establish a much better piece of legislation that will protect our privacy and ensure our safety.

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AMENDMENT NO. 2 OFFERED BY MR. FLAKE

Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, there are a lot of problems with section 215. This amendment does not take care of many of them; but by requiring the FBI Director to personally approve the warrant, that will significantly reduce the chance that there will be abuses.

So far as the ability to contest these, it is very unlikely that someone receiving one of these warrants will go through the cost of actually contesting it for someone else's rights. There are no attorneys' fees allowed in these proceedings, and it is just more likely that they will just give up somebody's information.

This requirement will reduce the chances that there will be abuses; and although it does not solve all the problems, it will reduce the abuses, and, therefore, I will be voting for it.

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AMENDMENT NO. 3 OFFERED BY MR. ISSA

Mr. ISSA. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 ½ minutes.

Mr. Chairman, this involves a roving wiretap, and I think you have to put these in perspective. You can get one of these roving wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act without any probable cause that a crime has been committed. You are just getting foreign intelligence. It does not have to be a crime. It does not have to be terrorism. It could be negotiations on a trade deal, anything that will help foreign intelligence, you can get one of these roving wiretaps. So you are starting off without probable cause of a crime.

And also, you can start off without it being the primary purpose of the wiretap, which suggests if it is not the primary purpose, what is the primary purpose? So there is a lot of flexibility and potential for abuse in these things.

There are also some gaps. You can get one of these roving wiretaps against a person, or in some cases, if you know which phone people are using, you can get a John Doe warrant. And there are actually gaps in it where you are not sure which phone, you are not sure which person, you kind of get authority to just kind of wiretap in the area. And so this kind of reporting I think is extremely important.

We have, for example, asked several people, if you get a roving wiretap and foreign intelligence was not the primary purpose, what was the primary purpose? We have had high officials suggest, well, running a criminal investigation would be the primary purpose, which means you are running a criminal investigation without probable cause of a crime being committed. And you get these roving wiretaps. You put a roving wiretap.

I have had amendments that have been defeated in committee which would require what is called ascertainment. When you put the bug there you have got to ascertain that the target is actually there doing the talking, not somebody else using the same phone. Those amendments have been defeated.

And so we need some oversight. And these reports will go a long way in making sure that you are not abusing, you are not listening in on the wrong people, you are not putting these bugs where they do not need to be. You started off with no probable cause. You are not abusing the roving aspect, putting wiretaps everywhere where they do not need to be. I think this kind of review can go a long way in reducing the potential of abuse, using the FISA wiretaps for criminal investigations without probable cause, listening in to the wrong people and a lot of other problems that can occur with the roving wiretaps.

And I thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Issa). Although it does not solve all of the problems, it solves a lot of them and I thank the gentleman for offering the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds.

Mr. Chairman, just to acknowledge that as the chairman has indicated, some of these roving wiretaps do put us into the 21st century with the use of cell phones and disposable cell phones. So the roving wiretap is necessary. But it needs oversight. And I think this amendment will go a long way to making sure that that process is not abused.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 1 ½ minutes to the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Boswell).

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AMENDMENT NO. 4 OFFERED BY MRS. CAPITO

Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.

Mr. Chairman, as it has been indicated, this amendment involves a lot of new definitions. It would be helpful if we had considered this in committee where we could have gotten the definitions straight.

This is a complex rewrite of two different sections, 18 U.S.C. 1992 and 1993, which involve wrecking trains and attacks on mass transportation systems.

First, it involves mandatory minimums, and we know from our committee deliberations that the Judicial Conference writes us a letter every time we consider a new mandatory minimum to remind us that mandatory minimums violate common sense. If it is a commonsense sentence, it should be applied. If it is not a commonsense sentence, it has to be applied anyway.

In addition to that, there are problems with the death penalties in the bill. It would allow death penalties for conspiracy. That offers up constitutional questions. It also would create new death penalties even in States that do not include a death penalty.

Mr. Chairman, if we are going to deal with attacks on mass transit, it would be helpful if we would put the money into port security and rail security and bus security and fund those resources. That would go a long way in making us more secure. Having four amendments like this when we have insufficient time to deliberate is not substantially as helpful as the money would have been in making us more secure.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Scott) for yielding me time.

Could I ask the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Scott) or the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Delahunt), is this not kind of unusual? There have been no hearings and we are combining the death penalty by putting together two substantial terrorist crimes, section 1992 and 1993.

Well, maybe I should ask the author of the bill, if he is on the floor, why this has not had committee consideration.

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CONYERS. I yield to the gentleman from Virginia.

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I would say that it would have been extremely helpful if we could have considered that. We could have got the definition straight, and we could have considered it in a more deliberative process rather than trying to deal with it here on the floor where we have some constitutional questions such as the death penalty for conspiracy.

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