ACLU Says Patriot Act Must Be Reformed, Not Expanded, As Congress Considers Reauthorization

July 11, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – With both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees expected to consider bills to reauthorize – and possibly expand – the Patriot Act this week, the American Civil Liberties Union today called upon lawmakers to bring the law in line with the Constitution by restoring checks and balances on government power.

The following can be attributed to Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy:

“Congress must act to protect freedom – not further erode it. Nearly four years after the passage of the Patriot Act, almost 400 communities — including seven states and representing roughly 62 million Americans– have passed resolutions calling on Congress to reign in the most egregious provisions of the Patriot Act. Our federal lawmakers should heed this call for liberty.

“Chairman James Sensenbrenner held extensive hearings on the Patriot Act, where the committee heard bipartisan calls for the Patriot Act’s temporary and permanent provisions to be reformed. Sadly, the House Judiciary Committee’s proposal is a flawed bill that makes the expiring provisions permanent and includes minimal changes that the Justice Department has already conceded — and even falls short on some of those concessions. For example, the bill provides a right to consult with your attorney if you receive a Section 215 order for medical or other sensitive personal records, but only to comply with rather than contest the order. Even the Justice Department has agreed that the law should be revised to provide a right to consult counsel to challenge a 215 order. Similarly, under the House proposal, the duration of secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants for personal records would be expanded, but no changes would be made to heed bipartisan calls to have better judicial oversight on the controversial power.

“Congress rightfully put sunsets on some provisions of the Patriot Act, so that lawmakers could reexamine the extraordinary powers when cooler heads would prevail. We cannot afford to sacrifice the very freedoms we seek to protect. Although the House Judiciary Committee’s base bill does not expand the Patriot Act in the unwise and unwarranted way the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed, it can and must be modified to ensure that Patriot powers are focused on terrorists, and not ordinary Americans whose civil liberties must be protected to preserve our American values.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:

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