The Secret PATRIOT Act

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 26 2011 9:04 AM

The Secret PATRIOT Act

The PATRIOT Act will almost certainly be reauthorized today, in a matter of hours. The only drama over the vote has come from an entertaining, enlightening, but futile effort by Sen. Rand Paul to get amendments voted on, with the stickler being the Firearm Records Amendment that would exempt gun registration info from the law.

There's another amendment to watch . It's from Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and Mark Udall, and it asks for more clarity -- really, any clarity -- on how the government is interpreting PATRIOT. Because right now, we don't know.

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(b) REPORT.--Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall publish in the Federal Register a report--

(1) that details the legal basis for the intelligence collection activities described in the February 2, 2011, report to the congressional intelligence committees; and

(2) that does not describe specific intelligence collection programs or activities, but that fully describes the legal interpretations and analysis necessary to understand the United States Government's official interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801 et 9 seq.).

This is complicated; read Spencer Ackerman's interview with Wyden on what's at play here.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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