U.S. Sen. Mark Udall will vote against extending the Patriot Act this week unless Congress makes several key changes, he said Tuesday.
Udall, D-Colo., voted against the original Patriot Act in the days after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
I thought then that it was being rushed through the Congress, Udall said. Ten years later, I have the same concerns.
The law gives police and spy agencies broad surveillance powers, and Udall is especially concerned about three provisions that soon expire but could be extended for four years.
The provisions allow the government to secretly view business records, like phone logs and library records; to spy on lone wolf terrorism suspects who have no connection to a terrorist group; and to conduct roving wiretaps that arent tied to a specific phone line.
Udall is sponsoring amendments to all three. Under his plan, police could view business records only if they can prove a connection to terrorism, and Congress would have to be told about lone-wolf investigations. Roving wiretaps would be allowed only if the target is present.
But Udall is not sure if Senate leaders will allow him to offer the amendments this week. Congressional leaders want to pass the bill in time for President Barack Obama to sign this weekend.
I gotta tell you, it feels like leadership is rushing the process again, Udall said. Weve known for months and months that this was on our to-do list for this Congress.
Udall and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told reporters Tuesday they will vote against the law unless they can force some changes. Both are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
However, both Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate are committed to quickly repassing the Patriot Act this week.
The Patriot Act is one of the critical tools for keeping America safe, said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a written statement. We should not let these authorities lapse or make them more difficult to use.
Wyden wants to add an amendment to curb the use of secret laws. Both presidents Obama and Bush keep their interpretations of the Patriot Act secret, and although Wyden has been briefed about the administrations legal position, hes not allowed to discuss it in public.
Both senators said their changes would not jeopardize the sources and methods that American spies need to operate.
But the laws that authorize them should not be kept secret from the American people, Wyden said.
The pair also has support from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a tea party supporter who criticizes the Patriot Act as a violation of civil liberties.