FC: How senator Patrick Leahy made wiretap bill worse, from TNR

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Tue Nov 13 2001 - 10:11:08 PST

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       ON THE HILL
       Personal Time
       by Michael Crowley
       Post date 11.08.01 | Issue date 11.19.01
       Leahy's prickliness is starting to have national policy
       ramifications. Consider what happened during negotiations last month
       over emergency anti-terrorism legislation. At the outset, the Bush
       administration was confident it would get enhanced law enforcement
       authority from the GOP-controlled House. It was Leahy and the
       Democratic-controlled Senate they worried about. After all, last year
       Leahy, a former prosecutor deeply wary of broad law enforcement
       powers, almost single-handedly sank a similar anti-terrorism bill
       crafted by Feinstein and Arizona Republican Jon Kyl (See "Sin of
       Commission," by Franklin Foer, October 8). And the September 11
       attacks appeared to do little to change his mind. When Attorney
       General John Ashcroft asked Congress for swift passage of expanded
       wiretapping, detention, and evidence-sharing powers, Leahy insisted on
       opening up detailed negotiations with Justice Department and White
       House officials before advancing a bill out of his committee.
       Few people objected to such consultation. But Leahy proceeded to
       alienate his colleagues by limiting the talks to a narrow circle
       consisting of himself, Ted Kennedy, ranking Judiciary Republican Orrin
       Hatch, and Justice Department officials. When other Judiciary
       Committee senators-- primarily Feinstein and New York's Chuck
       Schumer-- suggested changes, Leahy and his famously thorny chief
       counsel, Bruce Cohen, closed ranks further, implying that the
       negotiations were his responsibility alone. "I think it was a mistake
       to go ahead with that view of the world," says one civil liberties
       And, in a sad irony, Leahy's insularity appears to have made the bill
       less protective of civil liberties. Had Leahy been more open to
       working with his fellow senators, some observers say, he might have
       had enough support in his committee to alter the bill more to his
       liking. Instead he went it largely solo. At an October 2 press
       conference, Ashcroft, joined by Hatch and Senate Minority Leader Trent
       Lott, implied that Leahy was stalling the legislation and leaving the
       public "susceptible" to more attacks. It was a startlingly partisan
       move--and one that appalled Leahy, who accuses the White House of
       shifting its own time-consuming delays--but it worked. Without allies
       on his committee, and quite likely under pressure from Senate Majority
       Leader Tom Daschle, who was concerned about the Democrats looking weak
       on terrorism, Leahy was forced to cave, according to observers.
       The outcome: The Senate, as The Wall Street Journal put it, "produced
       a bill whose vast expansion of law-enforcement powers delivers almost
       everything the Bush administration sought." In the House, by contrast,
       a coalition of ACLU liberals and anti-government conservatives
       succeeded in adding a sunset provision phasing out expanded wiretap
       authority after five years, along with other restraints. (The final
       bill includes a four-year sunset.)
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