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Text of conference report:
Senator Patrick Leahy,
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
Statement On Introduction Of A Bill
To Extend Expiring PATRIOT Act Powers
December 12, 2005
Mr. LEAHY. On a September morning four years ago nearly 3,000 lives
were lost on American soil, and our lives as Americans changed in an
instant. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Congress moved swiftly
to pass anti-terrorism legislation. The fires were still smoldering at
Ground Zero in New York City when the USA PATRIOT Act became law on
October 30, 2001, just six weeks after the attacks.
Many of us here in the Senate today worked together in a spirit of
bipartisan unity and resolve to craft a bill that we had hoped would
make us safer as a Nation. Freedom and security are always in tension
in our society, and especially so in those somber weeks after the
attacks, and we tried our best to strike the right balance.
One of the fruits of that bipartisanship was the PATRIOT Act=92s sunset
provisions. These key provisions set an expiration date of December 31,
2005, on certain government powers that had great potential to affect
the civil liberties of the American people. Republican House Majority
Leader Dick Armey and I insisted on these sunsets to ensure that
Congress would revisit the PATRIOT Act within a few years and consider
refinements to protect the rights and liberties of all Americans more
effectively, and we prevailed.
Sadly, the Bush Administration and the Republican congressional
leadership have squandered key opportunities to improve the PATRIOT Act.
The House-Senate conference report filed last week by Republican
lawmakers falls short of what the American people expect and deserve
from us. The bipartisan Senate bill, which the Senate Judiciary
Committee and then the Senate adopted unanimously, struck a far better
The reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act must have the confidence of the
American people. The Congress should not rush ahead to enact flawed
legislation to meet a deadline that is within our power to extend. We
owe it to the American people to get this right.
The way forward to a sensible and workable bipartisan bill is clear.
Today I am pleased to join with Senator Sununu and others to introduce a
bill to extend the sunsets on the expiring PATRIOT Act powers until
March 31, 2006. Our bill also extends for three months the so-called
=93lone wolf=94 FISA surveillance authority, which Congress enacted last
year as part the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act.
The deadline that Congress imposed to ensure oversight and
accountability should not now become a barrier to achieving bipartisan
compromise and the best bill we can forge together. This is a vital
debate, and these are vital issues to all Americans. If a brief
extension is needed to produce a better bill that will better serve all
of our citizens, then by all means, let us give ourselves that time.
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