USA PATRIOT TERRORISM PREVENTION REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005--CONFERENCE REPORT
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, for months, we have been ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work on the PATRIOT Act, but the White House has continued to block bipartisan efforts to improve the original bill and accept oversight of its intrusive surveillance programs. Again, and again, the administration has refused to join in serious negotiations with Republicans and Democrats on matters of national security, including the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretaps and the FBI's use of national security letters. The latest proposal offers improvements and deserves to pass; however, it is unacceptable and undemocratic that further amendments could not even be considered.
We need to implement these improvements quickly given the administration's disregard of congressional oversight. The proposed reauthorization bill requires public reports on the use of two of the most controversial provisions: section 215 and national security letters. It also requires the inspector general to audit their use, and it mandates a report on any data-mining activities by the Justice Department.
Americans deserve national security laws that protect both our security and our constitutional rights, and more changes are clearly needed. One of the most glaring omissions in the proposal is the failure to include a 4-year sunset provision on national security letters, even though it would be consistent with the new reporting and auditing requirements that will take effect.
The latest changes provide some additional protection for libraries, but these safeguards should apply to all of the means used by the Government to obtain sensitive information, including financial documents and library records. We also need a report on the Government's use of computerized searches from all Federal agencies, and we will continue to seek such a requirement as part of efforts toward other reforms.
We have not yet achieved the 9/11 Commission's goal to maintain governmental powers that enhance our national security while ensuring adequate oversight over their use. With so much at stake, the administration's refusal to work with Congress can only weaken our national security and further undermine the public's trust in their Government. So this battle will go on, and I regret we could not accomplish more in this needed legislation.