Website No Longer Being Updated

Now that 2007 has rolled around, this website has not seen an update for almost a year. However, due to the historical significance of the USA PATRIOT Act, we've elected to keep the site alive. Or you can buy the book. Also, check out the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security's website for up to date information on ongoing debates about National Security Law.

Posted on Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 01:51PM

Congress Reauthorizes Patriot Act After Senate Accepts "Fig Leaf" Changes, But the Debate Isn't Dead Yet

Renowned philosopher (and Yankee great) Yogi Berra once said "It ain’t over till it's over." Those words certainly describe the seemingly endless debate about reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. As the "Patriot Debates" have raged on, we’ve seen proposals, counter-proposals, amendments, filibusters, and even a couple of last-minute, temporary renewal measures. Then House and Senate conferees finally agreed on a Conference Report (H. Rept. 109-333) in December that would extend the Act, with modifications, and the debate seemed finally to be over. But the Conference Report was then held up by a Senate filibuster. Last month, the debate really, truly seemed to be over when some of the filibusterers, after negotiations with the White House, agreed to proceed with a bill (S. 2271) that would make three exceedingly minor amendments to the Conference Report. In the past week, the Senate and House have now finally adopted both the Conference Report and S. 2271, and the President signed the reauthorization on March 9.  So apparently the Patriot Debates have ended.  But wait.  On February 27, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that he planned to seek additional changes to the Patriot Act after the reauthorization was passed. Sen. Specter’s bill would add additional, more meaningful civil liberties protections to the Patriot Act, including provisions from the Senate’s original reauthorization bill (S. 1389) that did not make it into the Conference Report. So the debate will continue.  And it seems like deja vu all over again.

Posted on Thursday, March 9, 2006 at 04:45PM

OK, OK, it's not a blog

When we started this, we hoped some of our contributors would be moved to keep posting, even after the formal exchanges came to an end. And we thought this blogging business was, well, easier than it has turned out to be. So, in case anyone is still misled, we are officially admitting that this website is a resource, not a blog. The essays are still some of the best things written on various parts of the USA PATRIOT provisions subject to sunset. They're available here -- and in book form. But we won't be trying to update them as the debate goes forward.

Posted on Sunday, July 17, 2005 at 05:28PM

H.R. 3199, introduced yesterday by Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), would make permanent all sixteen of the sunsetting provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.  It would not, however, give the FBI the additional subpoena powers the White House has sought. The bill will be marked up on July 13 by both the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees and is expected on the House floor next week.

Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 at 10:31AM

More on Section 215

Michael Woods, who contributed an essay on the "lone wolf" provision to Patriot Debates, has now finished a long law review article on Section 215, which he characterizes as "neither the deadly threat to civil liberties nor the vital operational necessity that its detractors and defenders, respectively, contend."

Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 at 02:01PM

New draft of PATRIOT circulating

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a draft of the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization, as well as a summary of the proposal prepared by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.  Reports are that the SSCI plans to consider this draft on May 26.

Posted on Monday, May 23, 2005 at 03:38PM

Intel Committees to Meet

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence resumes its May 11 hearing (interrupted by last week's evaculation of the Capitol).  On May 19, it will hear from three of our contributors:  Viet Dinh, Jim Dempsey, and Tim Edgar.  Meanwhile, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence goes behind closed doors on May 19 to mark-up legislation that would reauthorize portions of the USA PATRIOT Act.  Details of that meeting won't be released until after the mark-up.

Posted on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 at 11:45AM

House Intel Committee Gets Into the Act

The House Select Intelligence Committee plans to hold an open hearing on reauthorization of the Patriot Act on May 11 at 10AM in 21421 Rayburn HOB.

Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 08:12AM

Patriot Debates -- Now in 19th Century Format!

Why read the debates when you can listen to them? Many of our favorite contributors have agreed to appear in person and debate the USA PATRIOT Act on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 at the National Press Club's Holeman Lounge, 529 14th St, NW, Washington, DC.  The event begins with breakfast at 8 am, and the debate starts promptly at 8:30.  No charge, but reservations are required.  To register, call 202-662-1035 or email  Details here.

Copies of the book will be available. 

Reason number 6 to buy the book:  You'd feel pretty stupid asking the contributors to autograph your monitor.

Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 03:39PM

Profs Take on "Primary Purpose" Test

In an article recently published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Richard Henry Seamon and William Dylan Gardner trace the role of legislation and judicial decisions in the creation of the "primary purpose" test, which required that FISA-authorized electronic surveillance have as its primary purpose the gathering of information for intelligence purposes rather than for criminal prosecution, and describe the adoption of the current "significant purpose" test in the USA PATRIOT Act.  Ultimately, the authors argue that even under the revised version of FISA, the government can use FISA warrants to collect information used solely for prosecution -- as long as the prosecution itself serves one of the five intelligence purposes spelled out in the statute.

Posted on Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 03:16PM

Patriot Debates -- Now in 20th Century Format!

If you've been waiting impatiently for a chance to order "Patriot Debates" in book form, this is your moment. The ABA is now taking orders for the book.  Shipments will begin on May 17.

Now you might wonder why you should pay $29.95 for a book that contains nothing more than you can read for free here, especially since our Creative Commons license lets you copy it without fear of indictment, as long as you heed our modest restrictions.  Frankly, that's a good question, but Cory Doctorow and Janis Ian insist that some of you will.  And we agree.  Here are several reasons why you ought to order the book, even though you could keep haunting the site instead.

1.  You're tired of trying to read everything off the monitor, or sick of lugging around 8-1/2 x 11 loose sheets of printout.

2.  You need an appropriate gift for someone who talks way too much about the Patriot Act considering how little he actually knows.  Well, nothing says, "Shut up and do some research before you talk" like a traditional form factor. 

3.  You like us, and we don't have a tip jar.

4.   You keep expecting some really desirable person to visit your office, scan your bookshelves, and fall in love with you based on your taste in reading matter.  Okay, that's a delusion, but it's a lot more plausible than imagining that they'll fall in love with you based on your "favorites" bookmarks.  So if you want "Patriot Debates" to play a role in your love life, you'll need the book.

5.  You're not paying for it, and this is the cheapest thing your law firm or law school will be asked to buy in the next 18 months.  (Kind of makes those first four reasons a lot more persuasive, doesn't it?)

Whatever the reason, we look forward to your orders, if only to prove wrong all the ABA intellectual property lawyers who insisted that if we used a Creative Commons license we'd never sell any books.

Posted on Friday, May 6, 2005 at 12:00PM