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Rand Paul proposes amendments to the "Patriot" Act

By Tim Shoemaker

Via Senator Paul’s office:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Sen. Rand Paul introduced eight amendments and co-sponsored one amendment to the USA PATRIOT Act extension bill.

During the initial debate on PATRIOT Act reauthorization earlier this year, Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid said he would allow amendments and debate when the bill was brought up again.

Senator Reid’s (D-Nev.) comments in the Feb. 15, 2011, Congressional Record:

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I express my appreciation to everyone involved. It has been a difficult issue, but I will put on the record what I have told a number of Senators personally, and that is that we will, prior to this expiration occurring, bring up the PATRIOT Act and have an opportunity for an extended period of time–a week at least–to offer amendments and do whatever people feel is appropriate on this bill.

I have talked to a couple of Senators who have told me specifically that they want to offer amendments. Although I didn’t agree I would support their amendments–one was a Democrat and one was a Republican–I said that is what we should be able to do, to set this up so they can offer their amendments. And I will do whatever I can to make sure we move forward on this legislation in ample time so that we can pass this PATRIOT Act for a more extended period of time, which is so important to the security of this country. I know people have problems with it, and that is why we are going to have the amendment process.

Taking Sen. Reid at his word, Sen. Paul is introducing the following amendments to the extension bill:

Burden-Shifting Suspicious Activity Report Amendment: Requires law enforcement to initiate requests for suspicious activity reports (SARs). Shifts the burden for generating suspicious activity reports to law enforcement, requiring FBI/other law enforcement to initiate requests for SARs, rather than requiring financial institutions to automatically generate these reports.
o Supported by Kentucky Bankers Association and National Association of Federal Credit Unions

National Security Letters Issued by Judges: States that no officer or employee of the United States may issue a National Security Letter (NSL) unless a FISA court judge finds that probable cause exists to issue the NSL. Brings NSLs into compliance with plain text of Fourth Amendment.

Firearm Records Amendment: Clarifies that the authority to obtain info under the USA PATRIOT Act does not include authority to obtain certain firearm records. Supported by Gun Owners of America.

Roving Wiretaps Amendment: This amendment eliminates the possibility of “John Doe” roving wiretaps that identify neither the person nor the phone to be wiretapped. Also requires government agents to ascertain the presence of the target of a roving wiretap before beginning surveillance of a particular phone or email, using the same standard that is already required for criminal roving taps.

Leahy/Paul Amendment: This amendment consists of the substance of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) PATRIOT Act reform bill (S. 193) as reported from the Judiciary Committee. The vote was 10-7 (those voting in favor included Sen. Mike Lee [R-Utah]).
o Sen. Paul is co-sponsoring Sen. Leahy’s amendment.

Section 215/Access to Business Records: Restores the pre-PATRIOT Act standard for obtaining records.
o Supported by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

“Good Faith Standard” Suspicious Activity Report Amendment: This amendment would implement a reform that was previously proposed by the Financial Services Roundtable. This reform will help reduce the high number of “defensive filings” submitted by financial institutions due to their fear of being penalized for failure to file a suspicious activity report (SAR). It codifies a “good faith standard” to ensure that if a financial institution has established a SAR decision-making process, has followed existing policies, procedures, and processes, and determines not to file a SAR, the bank or credit union would not be penalized for its failure to file the SAR unless the failure was accompanied by evidence of bad faith.
o Supported by Kentucky Bankers Association and National Association of Federal Credit Unions

Judicial Review of Suspicious Activity Reports: States that the Secretary of the Treasury may not require any financial institution to submit a suspicious activity report unless an appropriate district court of the United States issues an order finding that probable cause exists to obtain the information.

Minimization/Destruction of NSL and Section 215 Business Records Info: Directs the Attorney General to establish minimization and destruction procedures governing the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of private information by the FBI. The purpose is to ensure that private information obtained outside the scope of an NSL or Section 215 order is appropriately disposed of or destroyed.

Tell your senators to support these common sense amendments to the “Patriot” Act.

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