The existing controversy over reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act -- portions of which will "sunset" if they are not renewed -- acquired a new dimension with the disclosure last month of an NSA domestic surveillance operation.
Some now argue that the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized before the Bush Administration's claims of inherent presidential authority to conduct domestic intelligence surveillance outside of the framework of law (FISA) are confronted and clarified. "The extensive new powers requested by the executive branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should under no circumstances be granted unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed," said former Vice President Al Gore in a January 16, 2006 speech. Much of the Patriot Act is unobjectionable to anyone, and some of it is positively sensible. But it also has controversial provisions on "national security letters" as well as several totally extraneous provisions inserted by House Republicans. A detailed assessment of the entire piece of legislation was prepared by the Congressional Research Service. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 3199): A Legal Analysis of the Conference Bill," January 17, 2006: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/intel/RL33239.pdf