Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Senator Feinstein response to my letter re Patriot Act abuses by FBI

Dear Mr. Armstrong:

I received your letter and want to thank you for sharing your views about the USA PATRIOT Act.  I recognize that this is an important issue to you, and I welcome the opportunity to share my point of view with you.

Three provisions of the USA PATRIOT ACT – known as "roving wiretaps," "lone wolf," and "business records" – are currently set to expire on May 27, 2011.  It is important to note that all three of these authorities can only be used after being approved by a federal judge. For your information, these provisions do the following: 

o   Roving wiretaps – before this authority was established, warrants could only be issued for a specific phone number.  In the modern age of telecommunications, terrorists were able to evade surveillance simply by switching phones, which is easily done with throwaway cell phones.  Thus, the "roving wiretap" authority simply authorizes a judge to issue a surveillance order that is specific to the suspect terrorist, rather than specific to a particular phone number. 

o   Lone wolf – the lone wolf provision allows for court-ordered surveillance of foreigners who engage in international terrorism but for whom an association with a specific international terrorist group has not yet been determined. 

o   Business records – finally, the business records section allows the government to obtain business records relating to a suspected terrorist if it receives a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

As Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I have seen how the United States intelligence and law enforcement agencies have used these expiring provisions and I have come to believe without them, they would lack important tools to protect this nation.  The United States remains a target for terrorists, and good surveillance is critical to prevent attacks.  For this reason, I have introduced legislation, the "FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011" (S. 149), to extend the three expiring provisions until December 31, 2013. 

As you may be aware, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has also introduced legislation to extend the expiring provisions until December 31, 2013.  In addition, Senator Leahy's bill, the "USA PATRIOT Sunset Extension Act of 2011" (S. 193) would amend the law to improve congressional oversight of these three provisions and impose a sunset on the National Security Letters section of the PATRIOT Act. 

On March 10, 2011, I voted for the "USA PATRIOT Sunset Extension Act of 2011" when the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which I serve, approved the bill by a vote of 11 to 7.  I voted for this bill because it would provide appropriate oversight over PATRIOT Act authorities and civil liberty protections, while also giving intelligence and law enforcement agencies the certainty and predictability they need to safeguard national security. 

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  Please know I will keep your thoughts in mind as this debate continues.  If you have any additional comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

  Dianne Feinstein
          United States Senato