TUE MAY 31, 2011 AT 07:30 PM PDT
Udall had three amendments which were not considered, as Reid pushed the extension through without allowing amendments. They would have required the FBI show a terrorism link when getting court permission to access credit card, phone, or other records about individuals from businesses; eliminated "roving" wiretaps that don't identify the person or phone targeted; and required law enforcement to notify Congress before beginning surveillance on individuals who are not connected with terrorist organizations or a foreign government, the so-called "lone wolf" domestic suspects.
The extension of the PATRIOT Act won't be the end, apparently, of Senate action on the "secret law" the administration is using to conduct surveillance that Wyden and Udall warn is not supported by the PATRIOT Act. That's demonstrated by a colloquy on the Senate floor engaged by Wyden, Udall and Diane Feinsten detailed here by Marcy Wheeler. The colloquy followed a meeting the night before which also included Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Underneath all the Senate "blather," there are strong indications that Wyden and Udall will force the government to admit how it's suveilling Americans, or comply with existing law.
Merkely could make that discussion public, which is why his presence in these meetings and in the colloquy is important. We're not likely to see any investigative journalists hopping on to this story, not after the way in which the administration has gone after the New York Times Jame Risen, one of the reporters to break the initial warrantless wiretapping story during the Bush administration.
These Democratic Senators are serious and cautious lawmakers. They aren't cranks and they aren't paranoid—as members of the Intelligence Committee, they've been briefed on the program that they say is not supported by the law, so they aren't making this up of whole cloth. Hopefully their efforts will either shed light on the program or by threatening to, force the administration to follow the law. A law, by the way, which is already heavily weighted on the side of government intrusion.