House Judiciary Committee to Consider Patriot Expansion Legislation; ACLU Strongly Opposes Unnecessary Increase in Spying Power

April 30, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today strongly urged the House Judiciary Committee to reject a proposed expansion of the controversial 2001 counter-terrorism law, known as the USA Patriot Act. This new bill could be voted on as early as Wednesday.

“Just as the Patriot Act was passed with limited debate, the Judiciary Committee has yet to hold any public hearings on this expansion,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Congress must move slowly before considering any further expansion of government powers. It should fully evaluate the original Patriot Act’s effects on public safety and civil liberties before further reducing judicial review of government wiretapping and taking other steps that reduce government accountability.”

The new bill, called the “Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003” (H.R. 3179), includes many provisions of draft legislation leaked from the Justice Department last year. That bill was roundly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats and never moved beyond a draft.

This new proposal would increase the government’s powers to secretly obtain personal records without judicial review, limit judicial discretion over the use of secret evidence in criminal cases, eliminate important foreign intelligence wiretapping safeguards and allow the use of secret intelligence wiretaps in civil cases without notice or an opportunity to suppress illegally acquired evidence.

The legislation builds on many of the most troubling provisions of the Patriot Act, which passed with minimal debate a mere 45 days after 9/11. To date, more than 300 American communities, encompassing more than 50 million Americans in 40 states, have passed local resolutions asking Congress to revisit the Patriot Act and opposing any further expansion of the law.

“Congress needs to listen to its constituents,” Murphy said. “The American people do not want the government to rush pell-mell into feel-good security measures that take away the ability of the courts to act as a check on excess.”

The ACLU’s analysis of the new legislation can be found at:

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