WASHINGTON - March 2 - As the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization bill heads toward passage in the Senate, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) today appealed to the Senate and the House of Representatives to continue working to correct the PATRIOT Act’s most critical shortcomings, which neither the reauthorization bill nor an amendment the Senate approved Wednesday address. In fact, the reauthorization bill gives the federal government new powers that further threaten constitutional rights.
“In the four years since the PATRIOT Act’s enactment, a broad range of Americans have petitioned their state and local governments to protect them from unwarranted surveillance and other excesses of the federal government. Eight state legislatures and nearly 400 local and county governments have responded by passing resolutions upholding the civil liberties of their 85 million constituents, who make up one-third of the U.S. population,” said Nancy Talanian, BORDC’s director. “Such a large, powerful, and nonpartisan groundswell of people acting locally to hold their federal elected representatives accountable is unparalleled in U.S. history. We commend Senator Feingold for reading the state resolutions of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, and Vermont, and the county and local government resolutions of his home state of Wisconsin aloud to his Senate colleagues yesterday.”
Critics of the PATRIOT Act remain troubled that the reauthorization bill does not address the original act’s major shortcomings, such as its lack of a mechanism for preventing FBI “fishing expeditions” into sensitive business, medical, library and other records of innocent Americans. The reauthorization bill would reduce Americans’ First Amendment rights to demonstrate by criminalizing conduct considered disruptive by the Secret Service at locations that a Secret Service protectee such as the President may attend or may have attended. This new measure, which was added to the reauthorization bill in secret, has never been debated by Congress.
Said Talanian, “Widespread concerns over the PATRIOT Act have brought together people of all political persuasions in hundreds of communities across the country to work toward one common goal: to restore Bill of Rights protections for themselves and all U.S. residents. We ask Congress to follow their lead and ignore partisan rivalries that get in their way. It is unconscionable for members of Congress to imply that their colleagues who call for bringing the PATRIOT Act in line with the Constitution are weak on terrorism.”
List of resolutions passed with resolution text are available at www.bordc.org.