House Blocks Extension Of Overbroad Patriot Act Provisions

February 8, 2011 12:00 am

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House Blocks Extension Of Overbroad Patriot Act Provisions
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WASHINGTON – In a positive step for civil liberties, the House this evening failed to pass a 10-month extension of three troublesome Patriot Act provisions set to expire on February 28.

The overbroad provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire are the John Doe roving wiretap provision, which allows law enforcement to conduct surveillance without identifying the person or location to be wiretapped; Section 215, or the “library records” provision, which allows the government to gain access to “any tangible thing” during investigations; and the “lone wolf” provision, which permits surveillance of “non-US” persons who are not affiliated with a terrorist group. All three provisions lack proper and fundamental privacy safeguards.

Currently, three Patriot Act bills are pending in the Senate. The first bill, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would mandate enhanced oversight of Patriot Act surveillance authorities but still allow the problematic sections to remain in effect. The second bill, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would extend the provisions for three more years. The third bill, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would make the three provisions permanent.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office:

“The House should be commended for refusing to rubberstamp the continuation of these provisions. For the nearly 10 years it has been law, the over-reaching Patriot Act has been abused by law enforcement to violate innocent Americans’ privacy. We urge both the House and the Senate to keep up this momentum and continue to fight the extension of these provisions that put Americans’ privacy at risk.”

The following can be attributed to Michelle Richardson, ACLU legislative counsel:

“It is past time for Congress to make reforming the Patriot Act a priority and bring its powers back in line with the Constitution. Now is the time for real Patriot Act reform and if Congress cannot achieve it, it should allow these troubling provisions to expire.”

To learn more about the Patriot Act and the ACLU’s work to reform it, go to:

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