As conference committees meet to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization and the defense department appropriations bills, I urge citizens to push for the inclusion of key provisions of the Senate bills in their final versions.
Although the Senate version of the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill fails to correct a number of serious civil liberty problems in the USA Patriot Act, it is a positive step toward correcting the imbalance present in current law between protecting national security and preserving civil liberties. These corrective provisions include: sunsetting two surveillance power provisions in 2009, six years earlier than the House's version; limiting delayed notice of a section 213 "sneak and peek" search to seven days; and improving the standard for section 215 secret searches to include a statement of facts about why the search is relevant to the probe, and requiring a nexus between that reasoning and a suspected terrorist.
Senator John McCain's amendment to the defense department appropriations bill provides clear, unambiguous interrogation standards to guide our military personnel in their treatment of detainees in an effort to end abuses like those that occurred at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Its adoption will send an important message to the world that the United States remains committed to human rights.
I ask that citizens push for these important provisions to be included in the final versions of both these bills.