This morning is the Senate Judiciary Committee's meeting to amend (or "mark up") and vote on USA PATRIOT Act renewal legislation; the discussion of PATRIOT is currently ongoing and you can watch the live webcast here.
So far, not so good. The first order of business was an amendment in the form of a substitute to Committee Chairman Leahy's base bill, which was negotiated between him and Senator Feinstein who heads the Intelligence Committee; that bill is here. The amendment was accepted at the beginning of the mark-up without discussion.
This is both good and bad--the good news is that apparently, Intel will not be asserting jurisdiction over the PATRIOT renewal process and doing its own bill, which would ultimately be much worse than anything coming out of Judiciary. The bad is that the negotiated bill has even fewer PATRIOT reforms than the original Leahy bill, which already had much fewer reforms than the Feingold/Durbin JUSTICE bill. The reforms that the bill does contain, like the Leahy bill before it, only address PATRIOT and do not address reform of the FISA Amendments Act at all, unlike JUSTICE.
Next up, amendments: Senator Durbin offered an amendment based on JUSTICE, which would raise the standard for the issuance of PATRIOT Section 215 orders for business records. In a vote that likely scared off a lot of other potential reform amendments, the amendment failed--apparently by a large margin, although it's hard to hear the final results of the votes because the committee clerk doesn't have a microphone.
Things brightened a bit with the next amendment from Senator Feingold regarding sneak and peek search warrants, reducing the period during which the government may delay notice to the searched party from 30 days to 7 days, in order to bring that PATRIOT authority in line with court decisions finding that delay beyond 7 days violates the Fourth Amendment. That amendment passed--hurray!
Next, Senator Sessions argued for an amendment that would remove the sunset provision in the new bill that would let PATRIOT's National Security Letter provisions expire at the end of 2013. Woot!--the amendment failed.
UPDATE: COMMITTEE ADJOURNED: The committee has adjourned without considering other amendments; Senator Leahy insists that any remaining amendments (Feingold says he has 2 or 3) and a vote on final passage of the bill should occur at next Thursday's meeting. So, if you haven't voiced your support for surveillance reform yet, please visit our action center now and tell your Senator to support the reforms in the JUSTICE Act!
UPDATE: VOTE COUNTS: The Senate Judiciary Committee's page now has the vote counts: the Leahy-Feinstein substitute was adopted by unanimous consent; Durbin's amendment on Section 215 lost 4 to 15; Feingold's amendment on sneak and peek searches passed 12 to 7; and Sessions' bill to remove the NSL sunset failed 6 to 12.