House Judiciary Committee Holds Final Patriot Act Oversight Hearing; ACLU Prepares to Increase Pressure on Lawmakers for Reform

June 8, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee met today to hold its final oversight hearing on the Patriot Act, wrapping up weeks of testimony from both conservatives and liberals that changes are needed to restore checks and balances. The American Civil Liberties Union called on lawmakers to reject the administration’s push to expand the controversial law, and instead bring it in line with the Constitution.

“Congress has done the right thing by critically reviewing the Patriot Act and what must be done to restore our lost freedoms,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “But some in the administration and Justice Department are moving quickly to not only reauthorize the entire act, but to actually expand it. Lawmakers must reject this power grab, and listen to bipartisan calls for reforms.”

Congress has been reviewing the Patriot Act because portions of it are set to “sunset,” or expire, at the end of 2005. Lawmakers put these sunsets on several of the most controversial portions of the law, passed just days after 9/11, so they would not be made permanent without a vote of Congress.

While most of the Patriot Act is, from a civil liberties perspective, benign, the ACLU said that some parts went too far, too fast and should be allowed to expire.

The ACLU and its allies – including unusual bedfellows like the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and former Congressman Bob Barr – have called on Congress to modify the Patriot Act to restore proper checks and balances. They have endorsed the bipartisan SAFE Act, which would make minor changes to the act to give law enforcement the tools they need, while restoring proper checks and balances.

Nationwide, there has been growing discontent with the Patriot Act. To date, seven state legislatures and nearly 400 communities have passed resolutions calling on Congress to bring the Patriot Act in line with the Constitution.

In coming weeks, these communities will be ramping up their efforts to make their voices heard in Washington. Americans will be using street theatre in their towns, lighting up the phones of their elected officials, and flying to Washington to meet with members of Congress. The ACLU and its partners will also be launching a new Web site to mobilize Americans to take action on the Patriot Act and will place newspaper and radio ads around the country.

“The right and the left have come together because our civil liberties are at stake,” Graves said. “Lawmakers have critically reviewed this controversial law, and now it’s time to reform it. We must ensure that our civil liberties and privacy are not unnecessarily curtailed under the guise of national security.”

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

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