When he was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee last year, Rep. John Conyers supported a one-year reauthorization of the Patriot Act, his first failure of Americans’ civil liberties. Conyers promised his fellow members of the House that he’d spend the next year holding hearings and creating meaningful reforms to protect civil liberties. That was his second failure: Conyers neglected to hold any hearings or introduce any legislative reforms of the Patriot Act after its reauthorization last year.
But this year, ex-Chairman Conyers has decided that at least he will vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act this time around. In a brief speech on the House floor this afternoon, Conyers insisted that he won’t go along with the Patriot Act status quo any longer (transcription of live video):
I reluctantly rise in non-support of this provision to extend expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, because of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which I’d like to call to your attention. This is the act that allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else — a person or business to produce virtually type of record. We don’t think that that was right then, we don’t think it’s right now, and I feel obligated to oppose any extension of these expiring acts, since we’ve had no hearings, no markup, no committee vote. Nobody’s done anything about it.
They say, “Well, ex-Chairman, just support this and we’ll get to it afterward.” Well, I can’t go along with that. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person’s privacy. And so I urge a no vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.