This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," July 25, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: I support this War on Terror and the war on radical Islam. I was here yesterday fighting for a very important provision that put me against my friends on the other side of the aisle.
But today, I’m asking all of my friends on both sides of the aisle: Let’s be patriots. Let’s stand up for those principles that our founding fathers talked about, and that is limiting the power of government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILSON, GUEST HOST: That’s Dana Rohrabacher (search), a California Republican, last night on the floor of the House of Representatives. Now, depending on who you talk to, the Patriot Act is either a valuable tool that has helped keep terrorism at bay or it’s an unconscionable attack against our personal liberties.
Last night, the House voted to make 14 provisions of the Patriot Act (search) permanent. But as the matter moves to the Senate, there is an unusual coalition of the political left and the right joining forces to place time constraints on the law.
Joining us is one of the authors of the Patriot Act, former Justice Department official Viet Dinh. Mr. Dinh also serves on the board of directors of FOX News’ parent company, News Corp.
Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
VIET DINH, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Good to be here, Brian.
WILSON: This was very interesting. You had the House sending forward a piece of legislation that says, "We think that the Patriot Act should be removed without any strings attached," but it was very, very close. And there were a number of Republicans who voted against a measure that would make it permanent. They wanted to put a time constraint on it, say, well, let’s give it another four years and come back and look at it again.
What’s going on here?
DINH: I think, one, this is not a partisan issue. Over 40 Democrats crossed party lines in order to vote for the re-authorization of the USA Patriot Act. As you say, 14 Republicans had serious concerns and withheld that vote.
I think it shows that there are serious concerns about the civil libertarian effect of the law. I think those concerns are misplaced for a number of reasons.
One, this is not an emergency wartime power. Rather, it’s a set of measures designed for us to cope with this new normalcy. They are not dangerous. They are not overreaching, as evidenced by the fact that out of over 2,000 complaints given to the inspector general regarding the USA Patriot Act, he found not a single one to be credible enough to advance to an investigation as to abuse of the USA Patriot Act.
I do not think sunsets are the answer if you’re concerned about civil liberty abuse. Congress should not need a reminder of how to do its job to protect our civil liberties.
WILSON: And let’s explain with what a sunset is. That means that, after a certain amount of time, it comes back before Congress and Congress has to decide whether to continue the law or not.
WILSON: That’s called a sunset provision.
But as it moves to the Senate now, the question is, will this kind of unusual alliance between the extreme left, which has concerns about civil liberties, and the extreme right, which has concerns about limiting government, will they be in a position in the Senate — where it’s a lot much more difficult, political environment to operate in — could they put this thing back into play where they will place these restrictions on it, these sunset provisions?
DINH: I do not think so. A similar bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 18-0, a bill sponsored by Senator Feinstein (search) and Chairman Specter. There are slight differences between the two sets of legislation, between the one that the House has already passed and the one that’s moving through the Senate right now.
But they’re basically crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. So the scope of difference is very narrow, because the overwhelming majority of both houses recognize that there is a bipartisan consensus that these are the tools we need in order to fight the war in the short term and win it in the long term.
WILSON: And I suppose what has happened in London in the past week or so is a reminder that we are not out of the War on Terrorism.
DINH: No, we’re not out of it. And rather, this is the new normalcy, as the president and vice president has noted to us. And we need the tools necessary in order to make America both safe and also free. And I think the checks are there in order to ensure that.
WILSON: Let me ask you, though, about the wider picture, as we start to react to what has happened in London in this country. I mean, today, they were going through backpacks, and purses, and personal briefcases in the New York City subway system. People were being examined before they could get on public transportation.
We’ve just heard in an earlier report this may happen here in Washington and other places around the country. At what point do you draw the line between your right to go about your business without being hindered by law enforcement and the right of law enforcement to try to protect everyone?
DINH: I think it is a delicate balance. Those screening measures, while necessary in specific places, are really only stopgap measures.
I think the true fight against terror happens behind the scenes, about our efforts to learn the plans of the terrorists and interdict them before we even need to get to the process of instituting intrusive screening measures and the like.
And that’s really where laws like the USA Patriot Act and the counterpart in Britain is very valuable, is to allow us to gather the information necessary about terrorists so that we can go about our ways living as free people.
WILSON: I hear from people who are in the Justice Department (search) that they have been very judicious about the use of the Patriot Act. And there are a lot of provisions there — I understand some of them have never even been used.
DINH: Yes, some of them have not been used, because the occasion has not arisen. But that doesn’t mean they’re not necessary. I think, at a time when there’s another catastrophic attack and a massive investigation, like we encountered after September 11th, those tools would be necessary and, indeed, critical for us to respond.
WILSON: So what are the ones that aren’t being used right now?
DINH: Some of them that are being of very limited use are some of the most controversial ones. For example, the business records provision, which the House had re-authorized, but only for another 10 years. And so it will sunset after 10 years.
The attorney general, the last time he made public information on this, said that there had been no uses for it. I think that information needs to be updated. But certainly, the actual use of these powers do not match up to the hue and cry that is out there regarding these authorities.
WILSON: Viet Dinh, it’s good to have you here. Thank you so much.
DINH: Thank you, Brian.
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