Letter

ACLU Letter to the Senate Urging Senators to Vote Either in Favor of or Against Certain Amendments to S. 2845, the "National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004"

Document Date: October 6, 2004

ACLU Letter to the Senate Urging Senators to Vote Either in Favor of or Against Certain Amendments to S. 2845, the “National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004”

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Re: Votes today on S. 2845, the “”National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004″”

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and its more than 400,000 members, we urge you to vote in favor of amendments to increase oversight and accountability of the intelligence community, and to preserve the Attorney General’s role in domestic surveillance, and to vote against amendments that will harm civil liberties.

We urge you to vote “”no”” on the following amendments:

Stevens #3839. This amendment would delete the provision of the bill that requires making the overall figure for the intelligence budget public, while still keeping details classified, as specifically recommended by the 9-11 Commission. Americans have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent, and this amendment should be rejected.

Stevens #3827. This amendment would gut the already very modest protections for the proposed information sharing network in section 206 of the bill. The amendment eliminates requirements to create guidelines to protect individuals’ privacy and civil liberties, control access to data, and establish useful ways to share information in the network, and should be rejected.

We urge you to vote “”yes”” on the following amendments:

Harkin #3821. This amendment would improve reporting on civil liberties matters by the civil liberties board, and explicitly allow for minority reports to be issued. The amendment strengthens the board and should be adopted.

Warner #3876. This amendment clarifies that the bill does not diminish the authority of the heads of departments that contain elements of the intelligence community, including the Attorney General. The amendment will help preserve the Attorney General’s role in ensuring domestic surveillance stays within constitutional bounds and should be adopted.

Warner #3875. This amendment clarifies that the NID’s responsibilities primarily relate to the National Foreign Intelligence Program, and not to other activities of elements of the intelligence community. It would have the effect of ensuring that FBI activities that are not part of the foreign intelligence program are clearly under the sole authority of the FBI Director, the nation’s “”top cop,”” rather than under the joint authority of the Director and the NID, the nation’s “”top spy,”” and should be adopted.

Leahy #3913. This amendment provides that the civil liberties board has power to seek enforcement of its subpoenas, rather than leaving that power only to the Department of Justice, whose activities the board may be reviewing. It strengthens the board and should be adopted.

Leahy #3915. This amendment addresses three major weaknesses with the current use of the no-fly and automatic selectee lists. It requires the Department of Homeland Security to establish criteria for who gets placed on watch lists and a process for individuals to challenge the placement of their name on a no-fly or automatic selectee list. It also requires the civil liberties board to conduct an independent evaluation of the privacy and civil liberties implications of the use of no-fly and automatic selectee lists. It should be adopted.

Leahy #3916. This amendment would require that the Privacy and Civil Liberties board assess whether the appropriate safeguards are built into the information sharing network to ensure individuals’ privacy and civil liberties are protected when intelligence and law enforcement information is shared in the network established by the bill.

As indicated above, Senators have significant opportunities to vote to protect civil liberties in the context of this legislation. However, the bill also substantial includes anti-privacy provisions that will not be subject to votes today. Section 205 of the bill establishes a vast information-sharing network including information from government files and from the private sector. Information about Americans would be gathered and maintained even absent strong evidence that they are involved in criminal activity, and this section even envisions private sector access to the information. While we support the Leahy amendment as a first step towards addressing privacy concerns, we are still opposed the creation of the network.

The bill also includes an amendment that effectively requires states to issue drivers licenses that conform to a federal standard – a national ID through the back door. Once federalized, licenses would become the key that accesses personal information about the holder that would be inevitably linked to the license. We look forward to working with Senators on the conference committee to address these very serious privacy problems.

Sincerely,

Laura W. Murphy
Director, Washington Legislative Office

Gregory T. Nojeim
Associate Director

Timothy H. Edgar
Legislative Counsel

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