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Legislation of the 108th Congress (2003-2005)

Proposed Legislation of the 112th Congress
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110th Congress Archives
109th Congress Archives


Intelligence Reform: On December 17, 2004, President Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 into law. Congress approved the bill by a vote of 336 to 75 in the House and 89 to 2 in the Senate. Although the final bill does contain some troubling provisions, such as minimum standard requirements for state-issued driver's licenses and birth certificates, many other disturbing provisions that were proposed are not in the bill. For more information, see the following resources:

The 9/11 Commission Report prompted legislators to draft and introduce this and other new legislation aimed at intelligence reform. Read the full 9/11 Commission Report and our companion guide for more information.

Legislation to protect and preserve civil liberties

Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act

Bill Number: H.R. 3171
Status: Referred to House committees

Dennis Kucinich introduced the Ben Franklin True Patriot Act, a comprehensive bill to undo the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

Byrd amendment making Department of Homeland Security subject to FACA

Status: Failed

Noting that the Homeland Security Advisory Council includes representatives of corporations seeking to do business with the new Department, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) proposed that this and other DHS advisory groups should be subject to the open meeting requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Read the full transcript of the discussion surrounding this Senate amendment and to see how your Senators voted.

Citizens' Protection in Federal Databases Act of 2003

Bill Number: S.1484
Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

On July 28, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced legislation that would require the Pentagon, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of the Treasury to file a report with Congress within 60 days about their use of commercial databases to track terrorists. For more information, read the Wired article, Federal Data Searches on Hit List.

Civil Liberties Restoration Act

Bill Number: H.R. 4591, S. 2528
Status: Introduced June 16, 2004, by Representatives Berman (D-CA) and Delahunt (D-MA) in the House and Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Feingold (D-WI), and Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate.

The Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) aimed to repeal those provisions of the PATRIOT Act which violate civil liberties, including restoring due process for those jailed by the government; stopping the targeting of immigrants instead of terrorists; and protecting privacy and ensuring limits on secret surveillance.

To learn more, read the full text of CLRA.

Domestic Surveillance Oversight Act of 2003

Bill Number: S. 436
Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced this bill on February 25 with two other members of that committee: Iowa Senator Charles E. Grassley and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter. The bill had six cosponsors. This is a companion bill to the House's Surveillance and Disclosure Act of 2003.

End Racial Profiling Act

Bill Number: H.R. 3847, S. 2132
Status: Gathering co-sponsors; Referred to House and Senate committees on the Judiciary

Rep. John Conyers (MI) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced this legislation on February 26, 2004. If passed, it will prohibit racial profiling. The bill had 109 co-sponsors in the House and 13 in the Senate.

Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act

Bill Number: S. 2628
Status: Passed unanimously in the Governmental Affairs Committee

The Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act would amend the Whistleblowers Protection Act to create real protections for federal whistleblowers. It would protect whistleblowers who have evidence of government wrongdoing, provide means for employees to contest security clearance decisions, and create new courts for whistleblower cases.

Freedom to Read Protection Act

Bill Number: H.R. 1157
Status: Introduced as an amendment to other legislation (see below)

Rep. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) bill has over 144 co-sponsors. See the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's Freedom to Read page. The Senate introduced a companion bill.

On July 22, a version of the bill was introduced as the Sanders-Otter-Conyers Amendment to the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Bill. Unfortunately, due to a highly unusual procedural maneuver the amendment was excluded from consideration.

Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2004

Bill Number: S. 2536
Status: Placed on the Senate legislative calendar on September 20, 2004.

This bill was introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) in June 2004. It passed with one positive amendment that, among other things, specifies religion as a prohibited basis for profiling.

Library and Bookseller Protection Act of 2003

Bill Number: S. 1158
Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

California Senator Barbara Boxer introduced this companion bill to H.R. 1157 on May 23.

Library, Bookseller, and Personal Records Privacy Act

Bill Number: S.1507
Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

On July 31, 2003, Senator Feingold (D-WI), joined by Senators Bingaman (D-NM), Kennedy (D-MA), Cantwell (D-WA), Durbin (D-IL), Wyden (D-OR), Corzine (D-NJ), Akaka (D-HI), and Jeffords (I-VT), introduced the Library, Bookseller, and Personal Records Privacy Act as a companion bil to Rep. Bernie Sanders' Freedom to Read Protection Act. The bill would amend the PATRIOT Act to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans and set reasonable limits on the federal government's access to library, bookseller, medical, and other sensitive, personal information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related foreign intelligence authority.

For more information see Senator Feingold's press release.

Otter-Kucinich-Paul Amendment barring funding for "sneak and peek" searches

Amendment to Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations Bill
Status: Passed House, dropped from the omnibus Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004

On July 23, by a vote of 309-118, the House approved a bipartisan amendment offered by Congressman C.L. "Butch" Otter (R-ID), Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) to withhold funding for "sneak-and-peek" searches under the USA PATRIOT Act. The passage of the amendment marks the first time either chamber of Congress has acted to roll back any provision of the law. For press coverage of this vote, see the following: July 24, 2003, Inter Press Service, Congress Has Second Thoughts On Patriot Act. Unfortunately, the amendment was dropped from the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, an omnibus bill that expands the Patriot Act.

Patriot Oversight Restoration Act of 2003

Bill Number: S.1695
Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

On October 1, 2003, Senator Leahy (VT) introduced the Patriot Oversight Restoration Act of 2003. If passed, this bill would expand the sunset provision already enacted in the PATRIOT Act to cover a number of additional provisions. See this article for more information.

Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act

Bill Number: S.1552
Status: Referred to Senate Committee on the Judiciary

On August 1, 2003, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill's purpose is to roll back certain provisions of the Patriot Act. It would require law enforcement to obtain a court order before conducting electronic surveillance. For more information, read the Center for Democracy and Technology's press release or this article.

Reasonable Notice and Search Act of 2003

Bill Number: S. 1701
Status: Referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

The "Reasonable Notice and Search Act," introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (WI) would modify the Patriot Act's "sneak and peek" provision, which permits delayed notification of search and seizures.

Sanders-Paul-Conyers-Otter-Nadler amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Appropriations Bill of 2005

Bill Number: H.AMDT. 652
Status: Failed to pass the House on July 8, 2004, with a 210-210 vote.

The Sanders-Paul-Conyers-Otter-Nadler amendment, which would have restored legal standards and warrant procedures for investigations of libraries and bookstores which were in place before passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, failed to pass the House with a tie vote. Although the original vote came down in favor of the amendment, the vote was held open and several House members were persuaded to change their votes. Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella distributed a letter claiming that terrorists have "utilized public library facilities to communicate with others about committing acts of terrorism" without mentioning how this information was obtained. In response, Rep John Conyers is asking whether this information can be obtained through means other than Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. For more information, see:

Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act of 2003

Bill Number: H.R. 3352, S. 1709
Status: Referred to House committees on the Judiciary and Intelligence and the Senate committee on the Judiciary

Representative Butch Otter (R-ID) and Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced this bill. It would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and title 18, United States Code, to strengthen protections of civil liberties in the exercise of the foreign intelligence surveillance authorities under Federal law, and for other purposes. See this article, "Bipartisan SAFE Act Aimed at Reigning in Patriot Act."

On March 8, 2004, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her co-sponsorship of the SAFE Act. In a statement, she said, "we need to look at measures to restore the federal judiciary's role to ensure that the Attorney General's far-reaching powers are not abused. The SAFE Act, which I am proud to cosponsor, would modify the Patriot Act by requiring court approval for the FBI to obtain records and wiretaps. The SAFE Act would also make clear that the exercise of political protest is protected. We should be able to keep the American people safe without threatening our civil liberties."

See John Ashcroft's letter to Orrin Hatch, Chair, Committee on the Judiciary, warning him that Bush will veto the SAFE Act. (PDF)

Stevens Amendment on TIA Funding

Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill
Status: Passed in the Senate

Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that sought to eliminate funding for the Terrorism Awareness Information Program (TIA). This amendment passed unanimously and intact. For more information on TIA, see:

July 18, 2003, Computerworld, Senate Kills Data Mining Program

Surveillance Oversight and Disclosure Act of 2003

Bill Number: H.R. 2429
Status: Referred to the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law

On June 11, Rep. James Hoeffel (D-PA), who voted for the USA PATRIOT Act, introduced the Surveillance Oversight and Disclosure Act of 2003. Please ask your Congressperson to become a co-sponsor. This is a companion bill to the Senate's Domestic Surveillance Oversight Act of 2003.

In his June 5 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Ashcroft mentioned the Bill of Rights defense movement twice.

 

Legislation that threatens civil liberties

Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003

Bill Number: H.R. 3179
Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Intelligence Committee

On September 25, Rep. James Sensenbrenner intoduced the Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003. If passed, this law would would provide new penalties for violating the non-disclosure provisions of so-called "national security letters"; provide for judicial enforcement of requests for information under such national security letters; and facilitate the use of information collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in immigration proceedings.

It was expected that some members of Congress would try to tack provisions of HR 3179 onto the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. National and local organizations throughout the country, however, objected to this move and endorsed a sign-on letter urging the Intelligence Committee to reject HR 3179, and to conduct the necessary review of the PATRIOT Act before considering further amendments expanding government powers. HR 3179 was not included in the Intelligence Authorization Act, and remained in the House Judiciary Committee. For more information on conservative opposition to the bill, read this article in The American Spectator, or read Bob Barr's full testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security's hearing on HR 3179.

Antiterrorism Tools Enhancement Act

Bill Number: H.R. 3037
Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

On September 9, Rep. Tom Feeney introduced H.R. 3037, the Antiterrorism Tools Enhancement Act. If it is passed in its present form, the Act would authorize the administration to issue subpoenas without having to show probable cause. The Act required only that the information sought by the administrative subpoenas be relevant to an ongoing investigation. It also contains a provision for the Attorney General to issue a gag order that forbids the person served the subpoena from disclosing its existence.

CLEAR Act (The Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal)

Bill Number: H.R. 2671
Status: Subcommittee hearings held 10/1/03

Rep. Charlie Norwood (GA) introduced this bill that would withhold funds from state and local law enforcement agencies that do not agree to enforce immigration laws. It would reward those state and local police agencies that do help round up illegal immigrants a share of fines and forfeited property and financial assistance for equipment, technology and facilities to incarcerate detainees as well as personal and agency immunity for any claim arising out of the enforcement of immigration law. If passed, the CLEAR Act would undermine community policing, and prevent immigrants from coming forward to report crime. See this article on local law enforcement in San Antonio, Texas and their opposition to the CLEAR Act.

Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (AKA PATRIOT II)

On February 7, 2003, the Center for Public Integrity obtained a copy of this draft legislation. It was never introduced in Congress, likely due to pressure from grassroots and advocacy organizations. For more information, see:

ACLU's analysis
Anita Ramasastry, FindLaw, Patriot II: The Sequel Why It's Even Scarier than the First Patriot Act
Rajeev Goyle, Baltimore Sun, Patriot Act Sequel Worse Than Original
The Black Commentator, In the Time of Disappeared People Patriot II means Permanent National Emergency

Homeland Security Enhancement Act of 2003

Bill Number: S. 1906
Status: Referred to Senate Committee on the Judiciary

In November 2003, Senator Jeff Sessions introduced this companion bill to the CLEAR Act. It forces local and state law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. For more information, see the National Immigration Forum's analysis of this legislation.

Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004

Bill Number: H.R. 2417
Status: Passed both houses; Signed into law December 13, 2003

A provision of this bill allows the FBI to demand records from a number of businesses, without the approval of a judge or grand jury, including casinos, travel agents, car dealers, the U.S. Post Office, and any other businesses whose cash transactions "have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory matters." It changes the definitions of "financial institution" and "financial transaction." Previously, only financial institutions were obligated to turn over such records to the FBI. This new provision inserts one of the most controversial aspects of Patriot II into the spending bill. Most details of the bill are secret, including the total costs of the programs, estimated to be about $40 billion. See this article for more information, and read speeches opposing the act's passage.

Joint Terrorism Task Force Enhancement Act of 2003

Bill Number: H.R. 3439
Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Intelligence Committee

On November 4, 2003, Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced this bill, which if passed, would promote the exchange of personnel between federal and local law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Pretrial Detention and Lifetime Supervision of Terrorists Act

Bill Number: H.R. 3040
Status: Referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary

On September 9, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA) introduced H.R. 3040, the Pretrial Detention and Lifetime Supervision of Terrorists Act. If passed, the law would deny bail to anyone accused of domestic or international terrorism. And the definition of domestic terrorism is broad enough to include legitimate demonstrations that suddenly, through no fault of the organizers, turn violent. Goodlatte's bill ignores the right of bail as granted by the Eighth Amendment.

Terrorist Penalties Enhancement Act

Bill Number: S. 1604
Status: Referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary

On September 10, 2003, Senator Arlen Specter introduced this bill, which authorizes the death penalty for any act of domestic or international terrorism that results in the death of a person. Its House companion bill is H.R. 2934.

Tools to Fight Terrorism Act of 2004

Bill Number: S. 2679
Status: Introduced in Senate, placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders

Senator Jon Kyl introduced S. 2679 on July 16, 2004. The bill contains several provisions which would threaten civil liberties. It would reduce judicial review in the issuance of terrorism-related subpoenas, allow surveillance of so-called "lone wolf" terrorists not connected with a foreign power, and increase the use of the death penalty in terrorism cases. More information on the bill.

VICTORY Act (Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations)

Senators Hatch (R-UT), Sessions (R-AL), Kyl (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), and Cornryn (R-TX) drafted the Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations (VICTORY) Act. The legislation would make drug possession a terrorist offense, increase the threshold for rejecting illegal wiretaps, and increase the power of the federal government by expanding its authority to use administrative subpoenas in all terrorism investigations. The Victory Act has yet to be introduced.

For more information, see the following:

 


Is this the same John Ashcroft?

In October 1997, then Missouri Senator John Ashcroft wrote an opinion, "Keep Big Brother's Hands Off the Internet" where he argued that "The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad -- all in the name of national security," and that this policy "raises obvious concerns about Americans' privacy." He also comes out in favor of the Bill of Rights: "The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state's interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens' Bill of Rights."