Bush Campaign Lies

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Bush Campaign Lie #14: Kerry Flip-Flopped on the Patriot Act 

The is the third lie in the 'Kerry's Flip-Flops' series. The Bush campaign evidence for this claim is that Kerry voted for the Patriot Act, but now wants to reform or replace it. Actually, everything the Bush camp says is true; the trouble is, it doesn't prove that Kerry changed his mind about the Patriot Act.

Kerry did vote for the Patriot Act (H.R. 3162 in the 107th Congress), indeed, he wrote part of it. And one little-mentioned part of the Patriot Act is the so-called 'sunset provision' (Title II, Section 224), which states that many of the provisions pertaining to surveillance of oral, wire and electronic communications, including voice mail and business records, would expire on December 31, 2005. What did Kerry think about the sunset provision? In a floor speech made on the same day he voted for the Patriot Act, he said:

"I am pleased at the compromise we have reached on the antiterrorism legislation, as a whole, which includes the sunset provision on the wiretapping and electronic surveillance component. It has been a source of considerable concern for people, and I think the sunset provision provides Congress a chance to come back and measure the record appropriately, and that is appropriate."
So, on the day he cast his vote for the Patriot Act, he specifically called out his 'concern' about the powers of surveillance granted in the act, and said it would be 'appropriate' for Congress to 'come back and measure the record.'

The Bush camp claims Kerry has flip-flopped because he gave a speech at Iowa State University on December 1, 2003, in which he decried John Ashcroft's abuses and said it was time to replace the Patriot Act with a new law that 'protects our people and our liberties at the same time'. Let's see what else he said in that speech:

"Much of what is in Patriot Act are good ideas. The Act increased penalties for terrorists, limited the statute of limitations for terrorist crimes, and allowed for greater prosecution of overseas acts against America. I fought to include important money laundering restrictions to clamp down on the cash flowing to terrorist enterprises. I had been pushing for these ideas since the late nineties – and after September 11th they were more important than ever.

I voted for the Patriot Act right after September 11th – convinced that – with a sunset clause – it was the right decision to make. It clearly wasn’t a perfect bill – and it had a number of flaws – but this wasn’t the time to haggle. It was the time to act.


If I’m elected President, we will put an end to “sneak and peak” searches which permit law enforcement to conduct a secret search and seize evidence without notification. Agents can break into a home or business to take photos, seize property, copy computer files, or load a secret keystroke detector on a computer. These searches should be limited only to the most rare circumstances. And law enforcement should provide notice of the search within seven days, unless a court extends the period of notification.

We will eliminate the potential of fishing expeditions into people’s library and business records. If the FBI wants to make these kinds of investigations, they will need a warrant issued by a judge and evidence that they are looking into an agent of a foreign power.

We will provide Americans with protections from wiretaps, prevent local police officers from spying on innocent people, and that ensures our courts guarantee appropriate national security protections."
So, the parts of the Patriot Act which John Kerry specifically holds out as flawed are the ones pertaining to government surveillance of computer communication and wiretapping, and seizure of business records --- the same provisions which Kerry said in October 2001 were appropriately covered by the sunset provision, and for which Congress should come back and measure the record.

It sounds like Kerry has already made his measurement, and found these provisions flawed. And aside from the fact that he doesn't want to wait until the end of 2005 to undo these flawed provisions, his stance toward the Patriot Act is perfectly consistent.

11:06 AM