FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today called on Senators to reject a compromise agreement on legislation to reauthorize the Patriot Act and urged that body to vote against a motion for cloture. Concerns about the lack of substantive reforms to the anti-terrorism law have come from an unusual set of allies, including former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, the American Conservative Union, librarians and other moderate organizations.
"The Senate must stand true to its role as the ‘saucer that cools the tea,’ and reject pressures to hastily pass a faulty bill," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Thankfully, some lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, recognize that the current bill is unacceptable and will vote against cloture. We hope others will join them; the American people, our freedoms and privacy, and our Constitution deserve nothing less."
The ACLU issued its call to Congress today as Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and John Sununu (R-NH) and members of Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances gathered to voice their objections to the conference report. Barr, chair of Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances and representatives from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the Gun Owners of America and the Free Congress Foundation joined the ACLU. Other organizations, including the American Librarian Association, have voiced their opposition to the conference report.
The ACLU noted that the conference report fails to require individualized suspicion before people's financial, medical or library records can be gathered by the FBI, as unanimously adopted by the Senate.
For example, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the "business records" provision, expanded the FBI's ability to obtain a secret order for "any tangible thing," without showing any facts connecting the records to a suspected terrorist. Under this power, law enforcement could use that power to engage in fishing expeditions into the private information of innocent Americans. The Senate bill required a connection between the records sought and suspected terrorist or terrorist organization. However, the conference report did not include that modest fix; it also failed to take steps to correct the National Security Letter authority, which was vastly expanded by Section 505 of the act.
"Congress must not let a fake threat by proponents of Patriot Act to let it expire to cause them to support a defective bill," said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. "Common sense corrections that would better focus limited resources and protect the privacy of innocent Americans already enjoy strong bipartisan support. Lawmakers should adopt them."
To read the ACLU’s letter to Congress on the conference report, go to:
For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to: