On Wednesday, Senators Specter and Feinstein of the Judiciary Committee introduced a flawed bill to reauthorize the Patriot Act that does not really fix many of the concerns raised by nearly 400 communities across the nation (representing millions of Americans).
The Specter/Feinstein bill is scheduled for mark up next week, with a floor vote presumably to come the week of the 25th. That means there’s time to improve it now.
This bill would make all but three parts of the Patriot Act and related provisions a permanent part of our law. The bill needs to be improved to provide meaningful protections for personal records about our health, finances and the transactions of our daily life in this information age. Unfortunately it falls short, by failing to require any demonstrable facts that connect the records sought to a foreign terrorist.
It also makes superficial changes to other provisions of Patriot that were rushed through Congress in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. For example, it would not set a short deadline for notice that your home or business is secretly searched, but would merely change the law to require that a date be set for notice, a date which could be extended over and over.