Ron Wyden Strikes Deal With Harry Reid, Withdraws Anti-Secrecy Amendment to PATRIOT Act


Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), one of the few Senate Democrats who wants to amend the PATRIOT Act before reauthorizing it, has struck a deal with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and withdrawn an amendment that would "require government to end the practice of secretly interpreting law." According to a statement Wyden gave on the Senate floor this morning, Reid and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offered Wyden the chance to hold hearings on secret law, and, if his concerns were not met, propose his amendment at a later date.

Here's the body of the Wyden amendment, which was co-sponsored by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.): 

Purpose: To require the Attorney General to publicly disclose the United States Government's official interpretation of the USA PATRIOT Act.

(a) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) in democratic societies, citizens rightly expect that their government will not arbitrarily keep information secret from the public but instead will act with secrecy only in certain limited circumstances;

(2) the United States Government has an inherent responsibility to protect American citizens from foreign threats and sometimes relies on clandestine methods to learn information about foreign adversaries, and these intelligence collection methods are often most effective when they remain secret;

(3) American citizens recognize that their government may rely on secret intelligence sources and collection methods to ensure national security and public safety, and American citizens also expect intelligence activities to be conducted within the boundaries of publicly understood law; it is essential for the American public to have access to enough information to determine how government officials are interpreting the law, so that voters can ratify or reject decisions that elected officials make on their behalf;

(5) it is essential that Congress have informed and open debates about the meaning of existing laws, so that members of Congress are able to consider whether laws are written appropriately, and so that members of Congress may be held accountable by their constituents;

(6) United States Government officials should not secretly reinterpret public laws and statutes in a manner that is inconsistent with the public's understanding of these laws, and should not describe the execution of these laws in a way that misinforms or misleads the publi.

As Jesse Walker noted in his morning roundup, Spencer Ackerman wrote yesterday at Wired about Wyden's efforts to reform secret elements of the PATRIOT Act: 

"We're getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says," Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. "When you've got that kind of a gap, you're going to have a problem on your hands."

What exactly does Wyden mean by that? As a member of the intelligence committee, he laments that he can't precisely explain without disclosing classified information. But one component of the Patriot Act in particular gives him immense pause: the so-called "business-records provision," which empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any "tangible things" it deems relevant to a security investigation.

"It is fair to say that the business-records provision is a part of the Patriot Act that I am extremely interested in reforming," Wyden says. "I know a fair amount about how it's interpreted, and I am going to keep pushing, as I have, to get more information about how the Patriot Act is being interpreted declassified. I think the public has a right to public debate about it."

That's why Wyden and his colleague Sen. Mark Udall offered an amendment on Tuesday to the Patriot Act reauthorization.

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  1. Window into the liberal "mind"...

    The chattering monkeys in the next office believe that Rand Paul is against the PATRIOT Act "because it doesn't go far enough."

    Oh, and today--I kid you not--one of them unironically used the phrase "but, but true communism's never been tried."

    1. Do they fucking read?

      Send them to the most liberal site you can think of and tell them to shut the fuck up.

  2. Yes, yes, so help me God ... blah, blah.

  3. Well, OTOH Wyden is an idiot for trusting Harry Reid after Harry Reid's broken a promise on this same issue before.

    Then again, Wyden did vote for Reid for Majority Leader and to give him all the powers that come with that, so he had to know this was coming.

  4. offered Wyden the chance to hold hearings on secret law, and, if his concerns were not met, propose his amendment at a later date.

    So... nothing. Wyden gets nothing in exchange for pulling his amendment. Pussy.

  5. On a similar note,

    TSA 1 Texas 0


  6. US to store passenger data for 15 years.

    I find this tidbit interesting.

    "The text includes provisions under which "sensitive personal data" ? such as ethnic origin, political opinions, and details of health or sex life ? can be used in exceptional circumstances where an individual's life could be imperilled."


    So how are they getting health and sex-life data?

  7. So how are they getting health and sex-life data?

    Medical records! Anybody want to remind me how this whole democracy thing prevents tyranny again?

    1. Well democracy doesn't. It's majority rule. That's one of the reasons our founder created a republic instead. They knew we would fuck it up, the citizenry always fucks it up.

  8. founder = founders

  9. So what was the deal?

    1. The deal is that Wyden pulls his amendment, and then gets to trust the word of Harry Reid in return.

  10. The deal is that Sen. Wyden now gets a hearing that would not have happened otherwise and few months to convince enough Senators that this is a real problem to so that he can pass this bill and end the secrecy. Or would you prefer it fails by a wide margin today?

    1. The deal is that Wyden will get a reacharound "one of these times, soon, I promise."

      1. This deal is getting worse all the time!

    2. This would be just like the deal that he and others got several months ago with the temporary extension, the deal that there would be a full debate now and amendments allowed, right?

      Leader Reid has already shown himself to be a liar when it comes to USA PATRIOT Act hearings and amendments. Fool me once, fool me twice.

    3. The deal is that Sen. Wyden now gets a hearing that would not have happened otherwise

      To paraphrase slightly, "Sen. Wyden now gets time in front of the cameras that would not have happened otherwise."

      If you know Wyden, that's all you need to know to understand his acceptance of the deal.

  11. I can't get my head around how you "secretly" interpret anything.

  12. Hahahah!!!!
    "Sure, you can have 30 hours of debate!"

    "Sure, you can have hearings later on!!"

    I have the easiest job in the world! I just have to make empty promises, and these rubes will fall for it OVER and OVER!! I am awesome. Really.

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