Grassley, Ernst split on Patriot, Freedom acts

NSA HeadquartersBy The Iowa Statesman


Iowa’s U.S. Senators split yesterday on the vote to restore some provisions of the Patriot Act through the USA Freedom Act. Chuck Grassley, while concerned with some provisions of the Freedom Act — and working to amend it — ultimately voted for the measure. Joni Ernst, however, supported the original Patriot Act, including continuation of the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection.

“As a soldier and member of both the Homeland Security Committee as well as the Armed Services Committee, I cannot support legislation that hampers important security tools implemented as a part of our original counter-terrorism approach,” she said. “During this important debate, I supported a short-term extension of the expiring Patriot Act provisions which are critical to the safety and security of our country.”

Ernst said she has expressed “serious concerns” over delegating responsibility solely to telephone companies, and said the Freedom Act fails to detail how long telephone companies are required to keep metadata records.

“There are uncertainties about process delays in the transfer of information from telecom to the federal government. We can and must do better to protect the privacy and security of all Americans,” she added. “America cannot afford the potential for systemic and long-term intelligence gaps. This approach undercuts protections previously put in place and opens the door for a false sense of security at such a critical time in the fight against terrorism.”

Grassley, on the other hand, said, “I voted for several amendments to fix the amicus provision, provide the government notice if the telephone companies were not going to continue to hold the phone records for at least 18 months, and require the Director of National Intelligence to certify that the new program was operationally effective.  Those amendments would have addressed several of my concerns.  I remain hopeful that many of these deficiencies can be addressed in the future.

“In the end, I felt that the bill was better than no reform at all and it restored several important, noncontroversial national security tools.”