House Judiciary Committee Considers Patriot Expansion Legislation; ACLU Strongly Objects to Unwarranted Increase in Spying Power

May 18, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and former Republican member of Congress Bob Barr 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. The new bill, originally set for a vote without Congressional review, is the subject of a hearing today before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

“Congress is taking the right step by holding a hearing on this controversial measure, and upon examination, we believe the committee will agree that it should be rejected,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress must move carefully before considering any further erosion of privacy through an 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 the draft “Patriot Act 2” legislation leaked from the Justice Department last year. That bill was roundly criticized by both Republicans and Democrats and never moved beyond a draft.

The 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 immigration cases without notice or an opportunity to suppress illegally acquired evidence.

H.R. 3179 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 315 American communities, encompassing more than 51 million Americans in 40 states, have passed local resolutions asking Congress to revisit the Patriot Act and oppose any further expansion of the law.

“Congress needs to listen to its constituents,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The American people — progressives and conservatives alike — 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.”

In his testimony, Congressman Barr told the Subcommittee, “With conservatives expressing serious doubts about the reach of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is time to go back and review the law, hold oversight hearings and consider corrections. It is certainly not the time to consider making it permanent or expanding it.”

The ACLU’s analysis of the HR 3179 can be found at:
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Bob Barr’s Testimony on HR 3179 can be found at:
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