Blog of Rights


Disappointed, But Undaunted

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 5:09pm
We're obviously disappointed with today's vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act without common sense reforms to ensure that anti-terrorism resources are focused on agents of al Qaeda, and not used to invade the private financial, medical, library and internet records of ordinary Americans. We applaud the valiant efforts of Senators Feingold and others to include truly effective civil liberties safeguards. Notably, Senators Feingold, Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), and the dean of the Senate, Robert Byrd (D-WV), voted against final passage. And in recent days, Senator Durbin (D-IL), Judiciary Committee Chairman Specter (R-PA), and Congresswoman Jane Harman and others, have reiterated the need to reform the law to better protect civil liberties, regardless of the vote's outcome. One thread of the debate remains unresolved, as the adjustments in the Sununu amendment, including a small change to National Security Letter rules, may or may not reach a House vote before the bill reaches the president's desk. We will continue to press for needed reforms to protect American freedoms. But we're sadly aware that in some ways the debate over reform may itself be completely moot. Until the Bush administration stops the illegal NSA program to spy on Americans, and stops ignoring the rule of law, any reforms to the Patriot Act may simply go unheeded under the extreme view of unlimited power embraced by this president. Congress must restore the rule of law and insist that Americans' rights be protected. Our great nation can, and must, be both safe and free. Together with our allies on the right and the left, we have made tremendous progress over the past four years. The Bush administration had sought a repeat of 2001, when the Patriot Act was passed quickly with little debate and only a few courageous dissenters. But the national debate over the secret search powers expanded by the Patriot Act has come a long way. Our efforts achieved a legislative impact that many, if not most, people thought was impossible. A bipartisan group of 52 Senators was willing to stand up to the administration and filibuster the bill last year. And we saw an exponential increase in the number of members of Congress willing to stand against the bill until it is reformed to fully protect fundamental American values. More than ever before, we need the support of conscientious Americans to help us continue to fight. We need a special prosecutor to investigate the NSA spying. We need to hold Congress's feet to the fire on hearings. And, once we've done that, we need to truly reform the Patriot Act, so that our civil liberties are protected and the law's provisions lie within the bounds of the Constitution.

Good NSA Scandal Resource

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 9:42am
The Center for Democracy & Technology, one of the ACLU's coalition partners in the Patriot Act reform effort and other national security issues, has created a very handy resource page with hot documents on the NSA spying scandal. Not only can…

Name-Calling by the White House?

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 11:37am
What a surprise. You just know this means we are making progress! McClellan was trying to spin the president's 2004 statement the same way Bush himself did over the weekend, claiming he was referring exclusively to "roving" wiretaps, which allow the…

Checks and Balances In the House

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 10:02am
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives bucked intense pressure from the Bush administration and refused to support a ten-year extension for some of the Patriot Act's most controversial powers. By a voice vote, with no members dissenting to back the…

The Business of America is Freedom

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 10:34am
Our efforts to reform the worst parts of the Patriot Act, which allow too much government access to sensitive personal records without any facts connecting them to a foreign terrorist, were given a big boost this week. The U.S Chamber of Commerce,…

Delivering the John Doe Petition to the DOJ

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 2:00pm

After the Capitol Hill event, more than a dozen librarians went with ACLU members to the Justice Department to deliver 25,000 petition signatures from supporters all over the country who want the government to "Let John Doe Speak."

We traveled…

Taking the NSL Case to Capitol Hill

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 4:51pm
Last week, people concerned about the Patriot Act's secretive powers came together in Washington to demand that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "Let John Doe Speak". John Doe is the pseudonym for the Connecticut member of the American Library Association…

Judge Roberts 3: Return of the Nominee

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 12:42pm
third of three entries The Senate's treatment of John Roberts' prior nominations reveals some of the institutional difficulties the political branches have struggled with serving as a check on the independent judicial branch of our federal government. …

Judge Roberts II: Roberts Begins

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 1:23am
second of three entries Roberts' work, intellect and devotion to the Reagan agenda won him a post at the White House Counsel's Office, a plum job that combines high profile with more mundane ones. His memos from that time reveal both a keen intellect…

Judge Roberts: Episode One, the Prequel

By Lisa Graves, Legislative Counsel at 10:38pm
first of three entries After a summer of movie prequels, this fall brings us the final chapter of John Roberts' ambition to serve on the United States Supreme Court. But long before the nation knew Roberts' name, he was subject to not just one but two…
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