ACLU Says President Continuing Patriot Act "Charm Offensive," But Hasn't Silenced Bipartisan Calls for Reform

June 10, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU Says President Continuing Patriot Act “Charm Offensive,” But Hasn’t Silenced Bipartisan Calls for Reform


WASHINGTON – President Bush spoke today at the National Counterterrorism Center as part of the administration’s renewed “charm offensive” on the Patriot Act. The American Civil Liberties Union called the president’s remarks both misguided and deceitful. Key parts of the Patriot Act are set to “sunset” or expire at the end of the year, and the administration is pushing for reauthorization, and expansion, of the anti-terrorism law.

“The Patriot Act is not the miracle fix the president claims,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “Rushed through Congress in the weeks after 9/11, cooler heads can see now that it went too far, too fast, and must be brought in line with the Constitution. Americans deserve an honest debate and not a misinformation campaign. Changes must be made to restore the checks and balances that have been unnecessarily compromised.”

In recent speeches, the president has argued that there have been no abuses of the Patriot Act. However, the ACLU noted that the government has refused to disclose information on how some of the most controversial provisions of the act are being used, some of these provisions have permanent gag rules preventing people from learning that their records have been disclosed, and there has been no independent external investigation into claims that their rights have been violated. Additionally, the ACLU has already highlighted numerous examples of the Patriot Act’s abuse and misuse.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, tasked to investigate civil liberties abuses, was mandated by Congress in the intelligence reorganization bill — passed more than six months ago. Friday, the president finally named his choices to serve on the board in what the ACLU said was a belated gesture to deflect mounting bipartisan criticism of parts of the Patriot Act.

In his remarks Friday, the president noted that the Patriot Act broke down walls to permit law enforcement and intelligence. The bipartisan 9/11 Commission found that it was primarily internal policies – “turf wars” and legal hurdles – that prevented such sharing. That sentiment was echoed in a report issued by the FBI’s Inspector General on Thursday.

Also Thursday, the president appeared in Columbus, Ohio for a Patriot Act “charm offensive” event. He outlined several points calling for the Patriot Act’s renewal – some of which the ACLU called misleading and inaccurate.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence recently approved legislation that would not only reauthorize the Patriot Act, but also expand its powers. It would give the FBI the power to unilaterally and secretly monitor Americans’ postal mail and grant the FBI “administrative subpoenas,” which would allow the FBI to issue and sign its own search orders – without prior judicial approval.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released yesterday, Americans overwhelming rejected these new proposals. 54 percent rejected the mail provision, 68 percent rejected the “administrative subpoena” power.

“Clearly, Americans don’t want to see the Patriot Act expanded,” Graves said. “Nationwide, nearly 400 communities and seven state legislatures have passed resolutions calling on Congress to bring the Patriot Act in line with the Constitution. Congress should act to bring back balance to security and liberty.”

To read the ACLU’s comments on the President’s remarks in Columbus, go to:

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

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