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Feingold: We’re Not the Prosecutor Committee, We’re the Judiciary Committee

Most of the senators on the Judiciary Committee today seem to be bending over backwards to give the FBI and Justice Department every benefit of the doubt when it comes to the tools they say they need to fight terrorism. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) just warned of all the people out there “that are trying to kill us” and fought to keep the phrase “specific and articulable facts” out of the requirement of what the FBI has to show in order to issue a National Security Letter, which after all does not require a court order or any judicial review.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) just made a key point in response:

I’m just concerned about the role of a Judiciary Committee that whenever the FBI says it doesn’t work for them that’s it, end of debate. Or when the prosecutor says something, that’s it. We’re not the Prosecutor Committee, we’re the Judiciary Committee. It seems to me that whenever an investigator says something or prosecutor says something, that’s the end of the debate. I don’t buy it, that’s not our job.

The committee just dropped the word “articulable” from the standard, on the recommendation of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). So now the FBI would have to have specific facts supporting its belief that the information sought has some relevance to a national security investigation, it just doesn’t have to be able to tell anyone what those facts are. Of course, since the law doesn’t require it to tell anyone outside the FBI, as a practical matter, the amendment doesn’t really make much difference.

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