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Amendment Requiring NSL to Target Foreign Terrorism Voted Down

An amendment to the Patriot Act provision authorizing National Security Letters that would have required the letters to target only people with some connection to a foreign power or the activities of a foreign power, so as to ensure that the NSL is actually issued to investigate terrorism rather than, say, fishing expeditions, was just voted down in a markup session of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

So far, much of the debate is focusing on whether and to what extent the law should be focused on investigations of foreign terrorists, as opposed to being open to be used for ordinary domestic law enforcement. Given that the Patriot Act was passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to prevent another one, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) have all come out strongly in favor of requiring some nexus to international terrorism.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and others all appear to be leaning towards the view of the FBI and Justice Department, which has told the senators in classified sessions that the broader versions of the Patriot Act provisions are necessary to combat terrorism.

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