ACLU Calls House Attempt to Renew Patriot Act a "Rush Job," Urges Congress to Allow Time for Thorough Public Debate

July 19, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU Calls House Attempt to Renew Patriot Act a “Rush Job,” Urges Congress to Allow Time for Thorough Public Debate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON -At a press briefing held today, Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, a right-left coalition including the American Civil Liberties Union, said that portions of the Patriot Act do not expire until the end of the year, and that rushing through unwise legislation to reauthorize the act without fixing it months before it expires, threatens the civil liberties of every American. Coalition members urged the House to give the Patriot Act full, public consideration before voting on its reauthorization.

“We now know that some of the provisions in the Patriot Act went too far, too fast,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “With five full months left to consider those controversial measures, there’s absolutely no reason to steamroll over them in a few days. The Constitution deserves more than a rush job.”

The ACLU noted that only a few provisions of the Patriot Act are objectionable from a civil liberties standpoint, but they are very objectionable. The provisions that go too far require the serious and thorough consideration of Congress. After 9/11, uncertainty and fear made it necessary to act quickly. Now, Congress has the opportunity-and the responsibility-to give full, open and public scrutiny to the act.

Although two House committees approved Patriot Act reauthorization bills last week, only cosmetic changes were made. Specifically, under Section 213 of the act, the federal government would still have the power to get a court order to secretly search any American’s home or business without notifying them of the search for months or longer and without showing any link between that person and terrorism. And Sections 215 and 505 would still allow the federal government to search medical, financial, and even gun records without ever showing any facts connecting those records to a foreign terrorist. The recipient of one of these demands under Sections 215 and 505 are subject to a permanent, automatically imposed gag order. The Sensenbrenner bill is so severely flawed that it gives a procedural right to challenge but then sets a standard for such challenges that renders them virtually worthless, and there is no right to challenge the permanent secrecy requirement.

The ACLU is not alone in recognizing that these sections roll back the rights of ordinary Americans and do not make us safer. Nearly 400 communities, including seven states, have passed resolutions calling on Congress to fix the Patriot Act-the very provisions that are set to sunset in five months. A number of prominent conservative organizations, including the American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform, have joined the ACLU in supporting the preservation of checks and balances. Several of those groups stood with the ACLU at today’s event.

“Proponents of the Patriot Act have failed the 9-11 Commission’s test to prove that these extraordinary powers have actually and materially made us safer,” Graves said. “People across the political spectrum have joined together to make clear that these provisions also fail the test of providing adequate protections for civil liberties. Congress must not ignore these failures and rush through a flawed bill to play partisan politics with our Bill of Rights and safety.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:
http://www.reformthepatriotact.org

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