Two Battles Won: PATRIOT Reform AND State Secrets Reform Bills Pass House Committee
After a long two days of legislative battle, the House Judiciary Committee just finished its second day of debate on Chairman Conyers' PATRIOT reform bill, HR 3845 (see our wrap-up of the first day). Thanks in no small part to those of you who used our action alert, the Committee rejected almost all amendments that would have weakened the bill's reforms and voted to recommend the bill to the House floor by a vote of 16 to 10.
Even better, the Committee kept going after it was finished with PATRIOT to consider Representative Nadler's State Secret Protection Act (HR 984), which would reform the state secrets privilege that the government has repeatedly used to try and throw EFF's warrantless wiretapping cases out of court. After an impassioned defense by Mr. Nadler, who described how the government has used the privilege like a "magic incantation" to cover-up wrongdoing and warned that state secrecy "is the greatest threat to liberty at present," the bill passed with even better numbers than the PATRIOT bill, 18 to 12!
It was, to say the least, a busy couple of days in the House Judiciary Committee. If you want the entire blow-by-blow of both day's meetings, check out our Twitter stream at @EFF.
Admittedly, the PATRIOT bill isn't all we had hoped for — as we described yesterday, it's been weakened in a number of ways due to quiet pressure from the Obama Administration — but it passed through the Committee with most of its major reforms intact, and it is a substantial improvement over the PATRIOT bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Meanwhile, the state secrets reform bill made it through the committee without being watered down at all, with only a few technical changes. Thanks and congratulations to the representatives and activists that worked so hard to make that happen.
Eyes now turn to the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee's PATRIOT Bill (S. 1692) will soon land on the floor, and to the House Intelligence Committee, which will soon be marking-up its own competing PATRIOT bill with much fewer reforms (HR 3969). So, the war is far from over. But two important battles were won today.