The Corner

Specter’s Patriot Games

House and Senate negotiators made a deal on the Patriot Act late on Tuesday night. The next day, however, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter reneged on the deal because Pat Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the committee, didn’t like it.

There are three major issues outstanding. 1) The House had voted to renew several provisions of the Patriot Act for ten years, the Senate for four. The negotiators had split the difference: 7 years. But Leahy wants to re-open the deal to bring that number down. 2) Recipients of national security letters can’t disclose that they have received them. The bill loosens the rule, but creates penalties for breaking it. Leahy doesn’t want any penalties if the rule wasn’t broken with the specific intent of disrupting an investigation. 3) Recipients of the NSLs are supposed to notify the FBI before they contact a lawyer—just in case the lawyer they’re calling is Lynne Stewart or a Mohammed Atta who’s gone to law school. Leahy wants that provision dropped.

Most Republicans aren’t inclined to give ground on these issues. Specter’s Republican colleagues are furious that he’s gone back on his word, but they haven’t been saying anything to the press because they still want to get his signature on a deal.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Demagoguery Is Not Leadership

The government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand has, with the support of the opposition, decided to enact fundamental changes in the nation’s firearms laws less than a week after the massacre at two Christchurch mosques. This is the opposite of leadership. It is also an example of why ... Read More
White House

The Media’s Disgrace

There will soon enough be an effort to memory-hole it, but the media coverage of the Russia investigation was abysmal and self-discrediting — obsessive and hysterical, often suggesting that the smoking gun was right around the corner, sometimes supporting its hoped-for result with erroneous, too-good-to-check ... Read More
Politics & Policy

What Was Trump So Annoyed About?

One of the stranger arguments that I heard throughout the Mueller saga -- and am hearing today, now that it's turned out to be a dud -- is that Donald Trump's irritation with the process was unreasonable and counterproductive. This tweet, from CNN's Chris Cilizza, is a nice illustration of the genre: Donald ... Read More
White House

Our Long National Hysteria 

Our long national hysteria may not be over, but at least it should — by rights — be diminished. Robert Mueller delivered his long-awaited report on Friday, and Attorney General William Barr just released his summary of the findings. They completely vindicate President Trump regarding the allegation that ... Read More