Dr. Coburn Supports Passage of Patriot Act
Says bill uses Oklahoma's Gold Standard' model in the fight against methamphetamines
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), today supported the passage of the Patriot Act, saying the measure would ensure the proper safeguards of Americans' civil liberties while protecting the nation from the threat of terrorism. The Patriot Act reauthorization passed by a vote of 89 to 10.
"I'm confident the Patriot Act reauthorization strikes the necessary balance between protecting our rights guaranteed under the Constitution and giving law enforcement the proper tools to protect the country from the threat of terrorism. In fact, this legislation provides stronger protections for civil liberties than those in current law. I'm also pleased the Senate included several sunset provisions that will force the Senate to revisit key aspects of the Patriot Act in four years," Dr. Coburn said.
Dr. Coburn withheld his support for the final version of the Patriot Act until new provisions protecting civil liberties were added to the bill. Specific improvements include:
* The "library provision" or Section 215 will not allow the government to conduct fishing expeditions in our nation's libraries. The government first must show facts that directly link a person proposed to be under surveillance to foreign espionage or terrorism before library records can be accessed.
* Section 215 will sunset in four years, an improvement over both the House and Senate versions of the Patriot Act reauthorization. The House bill called for a 10-year sunset while the Senate bill called for a seven-year sunset. The provision will be audited twice during the next four years. These "sunshine" audits will ensure media, public and congressional scrutiny and prevent abuses.
* People who receive a 215 order will have the right to legal counsel and judicial review.
* The "roving wiretap" provision, which allows law enforcement to track a terror suspects who regularly change cell phones, now includes a four-year sunset.
* "Sneak and peek" warrants, or delayed-notice search warrants, have a 30-day time limit before notice must be made to the one being searched. Although the Senate version was only 7 days, the House version was 180 days. This is an improvement over the original Patriot Act which had NO time limit for sneak and peek warrants.
* A person who receives a "National Security Letter" - a de facto subpoena - will now have access to legal counsel and judicial review. The use of NSLs also will be subject to the same audits and public reporting requirements that "library provision" search orders are subject to. This new sunshine on NSLs will provide continual review of these searches.
* The FISA Court will have explicit authority to review and overturn a non-disclosure requirement related to a 215 search.
* Exempts libraries from NSL provision if they are not acting as an internet service provider or wireless communication provider.
Additionally, Dr. Coburn praised the inclusion of the Combat Meth Act in the Patriot Act. The Combat Meth Act is closely modeled on Oklahoma's anti-meth laws, which dramatically cut meth lab seizures in the Sooner State.
"I'm proud to say Oklahoma's anti-meth laws are considered the gold standard among law enforcement and were used to shape the federal legislation aimed at fighting methamphetamines. This federal legislation will apply key principles in the fight against meth that have been successful in our state while allowing other states to respond to any other challenges their law enforcement officials may face," Dr. Coburn said.