Three years after the passage of the PATRIOT Act, the movement to fix this broad and un-American piece of legislation is gaining momentum. Despite an unprecedented public relations offensive by Attorney General Ashcroft and a veto threat from the White House, Congress is moving toward revising the Patriot Act's most dangerous provisions.
Following on the House's strong vote to ban "sneak and peek" searches, Sens. Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have now taken the lead in the Senate by introducing the bi-partisan Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act of 2003 (S 1709). In the House, Rep. Butch Otter (R-ID) has introduced a companion bill (HR 3352). This legislation would represent a significant first step toward rolling back some of the PATRIOT Act's worse excesses.
This legislation would make sure that intelligence agents cannot search library records unless there is suspicion that an individual is involved with a foreign power. It would also limit the use of sneak and peek searches by government agents. Furthermore, it would limit the government's ability to conduct widespread searches of your personal information without probable cause or individualized suspicion.
The SAFE Act would not hinder the investigative powers law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe, but would instead ensure proper checks and balances on these powers to help keep us free. Yet even this modest bill drew the wrath of Attorney General Ashcroft who falsely said that it would ""make it even more difficult to mount an effective anti-terror campaign than it was before the Patriot Act was passed."
The SAFE Act represents our best chance this year to fix the PATRIOT Act and deserves our support.
Take Action! Urge your Members of Congress to correct the PATRIOT Acts flaws.
The government should not be allowed to indiscriminately investigate your library and other personal records.
This legislation would amend the PATRIOT ACT to require "individualized suspicion" that the records being sought are related to someone who is acting for a foreign government or terrorist organization. It prohibits the government from embarking on fishing expeditions where they examine a large number of people's records without any reasonable suspicion in the hopes that they might find a potential terrorist.
Sneak and peek searches should be used in rare situations, not as a standard practice.
The PATRIOT Act allows the widespread use of sneak and peek searches and delays notification indefinitely. This new legislation would limit the use of sneak and peek searches to three specific purposes. It would also ensure that the targets of these searches are notified within seven days unless a court approves extensions.
The PATRIOT Act is an attack on fundamental American values. It needs to be fixed.
The Constitution and its Bill of Rights emphasize the need for checks and balances on government agents and limits to their power. The PATRIOT Act rolled back key judicial oversight and gave law enforcement significant new powers that go beyond the war on terrorism. The passing of this legislation would be an important step in bringing the PATRIOT Act back in line with core American values.