DOJ To Implement Provisions Of Leahy-Authored Patriot Act Reauthorization Proposal

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010) – In a letter sent Thursday to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated that it is implementing several key oversight and civil liberties provisions incorporated in legislation authored by Leahy to reauthorize expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.

In March, Leahy wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Justice Department to implement oversight provisions and reporting requirements included in the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2009.  In November 2009, the Justice Department expressed strong support for the Leahy-authored bill, as reported by the Judiciary Committee. The Attorney General’s letter to Leahy, received Thursday, states that many oversight provisions in the Committee-reported bill have been implemented by the Justice Department. 

“I am pleased that the Justice Department is implementing many of the important oversight provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act,” said Leahy.  “I take seriously the Senate’s role in conducting oversight.  We must remain vigilant to ensure that law enforcement has the necessary tools to protect our national security, without compromising the personal privacy of Americans.  I still believe that these important oversight and accountability provisions should be enacted in law, but I appreciate that by implementing key measures in the bill, the Department of Justice has embraced the need for oversight and transparency.  I look forward to working with Attorney General Holder to improve and strengthen the privacy protections and tools authorized in the Patriot Act.”

“[W]e have determined that many of the privacy and civil liberties provisions of S. 1692 can be implemented without legislation,” wrote Holder.  “We believe these measures will enhance standards, oversight, and accountability, especially with respect to how information about U.S. persons is retained and disseminated, without sacrificing the operational effectiveness and flexibility needed to protect our citizens from terrorism and facilitate the collection of vital foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information.”

In its response to Leahy’s letter, the Justice Department indicated that it has:

  • Implemented a requirement that, when library or bookseller records are sought via a Section 215 order for business records, a statement of specific and articulable facts showing relevance to an authorized investigation must be produced;
  • Adopted a policy requiring the FBI to retain a statement of facts showing that the information sought through a National Security Letter (NSL) is relevant to an authorized investigation, to facilitate better auditing and accountability;
  • Adopted procedures to provide notification to recipients of NSLs of their opportunity to contest any nondisclosure requirement attached to the NSL;
  • Agreed to ensure that NSL recipients who challenge nondisclosure orders are notified by the FBI when compliance with such nondisclosure orders are no longer required;
  • Adopted Procedures for the Collection, Use and Storage of Information Derived from National Security Letters, which were approved by Attorney General Holder on October 1, 2010;
  • Agreed to work with Congress to determine ways to make additional information publicly available regarding the use of FISA authorities.

Leahy also wrote in March to Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine requesting that the Office of the Inspector General fulfill several reporting requirements included in the legislation.  In June, Fine sent a letter to Leahy indicating that his office would conduct many of the reviews called for in Leahy’s proposed legislation.

Last year, Leahy introduced legislation to reauthorize expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.  A bipartisan majority of the Judiciary Committee approved the legislation in October, but the legislation was stalled on the floor.  In March, the Senate passed a temporary one-year extension of expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. 

A PDF of Attorney General Holder’s letter to Leahy is available online.

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