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WASHINGTON – Legislation to amend the Patriot Act with improved civil liberties protections was introduced in the House today by Congressmen John Conyers (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Robert Scott (D-VA). The original Patriot Act was rushed through Congress days after 9/11 and granted the government broad surveillance powers to spy on innocent Americans. Today’s legislation is meant to address three provisions of the Patriot Act set to expire this year as well as additional provisions that are not set to expire.
The USA Patriot Amendments Act would create better civil liberties protections for many of the Patriot Act powers, including restricting the gag order attached to receiving a subpoena known as a national security letter (NSL). Just today, a federal court ruled that the government can continue to enforce a five-year-old gag order on an Internet service provider (ISP) that the FBI served with an NSL many years ago. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the ISP. Under a current Patriot Act provision, the FBI can use NSLs to demand personal records about innocent customers from ISPs, financial institutions and credit companies without prior judicial approval, and then bar NSL recipients from disclosing anything about the record demand.
The USA Patriot Act Amendments Act also terminates the never-used lone wolf power and limits the use of NSLs to collect information on suspected terrorists or spies instead of innocent Americans.
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office:
“The USA Patriot Amendments Act is a welcome step toward reforming the much abused Patriot Act and would go much further than the current Senate bill. Instead of merely tweaking overly broad surveillance provisions, this bill will actually institute much needed privacy and civil liberties protections into the Patriot Act. We can’t simply continue to kick Patriot Act reform down the road any longer. We will be encouraging members of the House Judiciary Committee to make this good bill even better during markup in the coming weeks.”
To learn more about the ACLU’s work on the Patriot Act, go to: www.reformthepatriotact.org