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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 16, 2005

Schumer Opposes Patriot Act Based On New Wiretap Revelations

President Putting Politics Above Safety if He Vetoes 3 Month Extension

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Judiciary Committee member, announced his opposition to the Patriot Act, based on the new revelations about secret wiretaps reported in the press today. Schumer recommends a temporary extension for Patriot so that the final reauthorization is done properly. He is also very concerned with the problems that still exist with the homeland security funding formula, leaving New York and other very high threat states with a disproportionately small slice of the pie. Below is Schumer’s floor statement:

First, I want to thank both my colleagues from Pennsylvania and Vermont for their fine efforts on this legislation.

Mr. President, I went to bed last night unsure of how to vote on this legislation. On the one hand, I want to give a lot of credit to my colleague from Pennsylvania. This is a significant improvement over present law. It is a significant improvement over the House bill. And it comes a lot closer to the Senate bill than many are giving it credit for. On the other hand, even before last night, I had real doubts that we didn't correct the formula in terms of distributing aid which definitely hurts my state of New York. But I went to bed, as I said, undecided.

But today's revelation that the government listened in on thousands of phone conversations without getting a warrant is shocking and has greatly influenced my vote. If this government will discard a law that has worked well for over 30 years without a whit of discussion or notice, then for sure we better be certain that we have safeguards on that government.

The balance between security and liberty is a delicate one, and there is great room for disagreement as to where that ought to come down. I don't question the motives of anybody here. And I tend to be fairly hawkish on these types of things, as my colleagues know, but there's one thing for sure: there ought to be discussion. There ought to be debate. Whenever there is discussion and debate, we usually come out right, and that is true on the wiretap law. When J. Edgar Hoover and other leaders of the F.B.I. had unchecked power, there were abuses. We put in an independent arbiter, a judge. We put in a standard, probable cause. And neither the prosecutorial community nor the defense community has complained. So then why, with the flick of a wrist, did this administration ignore those laws and listen in on conversations of hundreds of people when it would have been so easy to obey the law?

Today's revelation makes it crystal clear that we have to be very careful, very careful, and Senator Leahy's suggestion that we renew the present law for three months and come to an agreement like we did in the Senate that all can live with is eminently sensible.

And I would like to make one final point: my good friend from Arizona, and I respect his sincerity on this issue - we've written parts of this law together, particularly the lone wolf provision – but he says that we will have no law if we don't vote for cloture.

But I would say this: if cloture is not invoked and the opportunity to renew this law for three months or six months comes before us and the President vetoes it, it will be crystal clear that he is putting politics above safety because the bottom line is the present law is if anything tougher than the law that's on the books. So let us not invoke the threat that the President will not extend the PATRIOT Act. It would be a dereliction of his duty as Commander-in-Chief and chief law enforcement officer of this land.

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