News Release

Fallacies of “PATRIOT Act” “Compromises”


The Washington Times reported earlier this week: “Obama scolds Senate: Skip recess, get back to work on Patriot Act reform.”

Politico is reporting: “To meet the midnight Sunday deadline, McConnell will either have to cut a deal with Paul, who’s making demands that other lawmakers object to — or hope that senators, when confronted by a deadline that’s hours instead of days away, relent and agree to a temporary extension.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at

She broke a story earlier this week about provisions of a so-called compromise proposal: “Feinstein Enters the Non-Compromise Compromise Fray.” She also wrote the piece “AP Calls a Bill that Would Criminalize Sources Used for the Same Story a ‘Compromise’.” See also her recent article “A Brief History of the PATRIOT Reauthorization Debate.”

Wheeler will be taking part in Stand Up for Truth events next week, a series of events to support whistleblowing. She will be speaking with NSA whistleblower Bill Binney in Chicago. NSA whistleblower Wiebe, quoted below, will participate in a webcast. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg will be with a group of whistleblowers speaking in London, Oslo, Stockholm and Berlin. IPA is a co-organizer of these events. For a full schedule, see:

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. He said today: “The tragedy surrounding the current discussion of the USA Freedom Act lies in the fact that the government — including the legislative and executive branches of government, aided and abetted by an unchallenged FISA Court, is working in collusion to mislead the American public about the ability of the legislation to truly do what most Americans want — a constitutional process that a) actually catches bad guys, and b) respects and enforces privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. Both are ‘do-able’ from a technology perspective and there is no balance — we can have both.   

“The truth is that USA Freedom does not cover all NSA authorities to collect information. As long as NSA enjoys collection authorities to do bulk collection under Executive Order 12333, together with no constraints on Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the USA Freedom Act results in few net changes in the government’s ability to invade privacy as it deems necessary, bulk or otherwise. In short, the USA Freedom Act alone does fundamentally very little in terms of significantly constraining the ability of the National Security Agency to perform bulk collection of data about anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise. We need comprehensive surveillance reform.

“There is one more important aspect of the discussion — USA Freedom does absolutely nothing to enhance legislative or judicial oversight over the executive branch’s use of NSA’s vast intelligence production apparatus. Lots of ‘trust,’ but no ‘verify,’ which is what created the current constitutional crisis beginning with the events of Sept. 11, 2001.”