US Congress Tried, and Failed, to Strengthen the Patriot Act

Published: July 12, 2016 10:30 PM /


US Senate Building

While the cat is away, the mice will play, so to speak. Public outcry has determined the fate of unpopular bills in the past, so Congress appeared to be hoping the public wasn't looking this time. Without proper committee consideration and without even allowing extensive debate, amendments, or even allowing time for reps to read it, the U.S. House of Representatives tried to strengthen the Patriot Act in a deviation from normal procedure via suspension of rules. They didn't even make it too public in hopes that nobody would notice. 

Ultimately, this endeavor failed with 229 votes, stopping well short of the 2/3 majority that would be needed to pass.

The bill in question had the title H.R. 5606, and it aimed at strengthening Section 314 of the Patriot Act with the goal of curbing money laundering and aiding non-terrorism investigations.  It would have prompted financial institutions to communicate with each other over money laundering investigations, as well as have law enforcement share what they know with financial institutions. This is, at least, what it would have done in theory, but critics blasted this bill as a threat to privacy.

One of the main opponents of the bill was Congressman Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who is chairman of the House Liberty Caucus.  He sent out a number of tweets earlier in the day about the House attempting to vote on H.R. 5606 and voiced his opposition openly, mainly stating Fourth Amendment concerns by stating "Section 314 of the Patriot Act attempts to sidestep this constitutional protection by treating a domestic criminal investigation like a foreign terrorism investigation, and H.R. 5606 extends the applicability to a much wider range of criminal investigations."

H.R. 5606 was sponsored by Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-North Carolina) and co-sponsored by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California).

The Patriot Act vastly broadened the surveillance powers of the US Government, a topic that remains touchy even today with the average American following the revelations made by Edward Snowden of the massive surveillance networks authorized and set up in the wake of the Patriot Act passing in 2001.

An interesting tidbit, as revealed by Rare, is that the FBI has admitted that the Patriot Act didn't even assist them directly with major terrorism cases, though the information was "valuable" in the pursuit of leads of non-related cases.  The Patriot Act has mostly gone into drug cases and other crimes that do not fall into terrorism labels.


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