Senate Committee Passes Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

Senate Committee Passes Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill

Bill Does Not Go Far Enough to Protect Americans’ Privacy, Says ACLU

WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the USA PATRIOT Act Extension Act
of 2009 today, a bill which falls far short of restoring the necessary
civil liberties protections lacking in the original Patriot Act. The
bill, passed by the committee after two sessions of debate, makes only
minor changes to the disastrous Patriot Act and was further watered
down by amendments adopted during markup. The American Civil Liberties
Union had endorsed the JUSTICE Act, an alternative bill that would
heavily reform not only the Patriot Act but other overly broad
surveillance laws.

 
Amendments
that were offered but failed by voice vote included an amendment by
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) to curb the abuse of the overly broad
National Security Letter (NSL) statute and another offered by Senator
Russell Feingold (D-WI) to allow the "lone wolf" provision to expire
(the never-used provision that targets individuals who are not
connected to terrorist groups). An amendment also failed that would
make it more difficult for recipients to challenge the gag order that
comes with receiving an NSL.

 
However,
there were two amendments included in the final bill - both offered by
Senator Feingold - that are victories for privacy: The Department of
Justice would be ordered to discard any illegally obtained information
received in response to an NSL and the government must notify suspects
of "sneak and peek" searches within seven days instead of the thirty
days currently outlined in the statute. "Sneak and peek" searches allow
the government to search a home without notifying the resident
immediately.

 
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
 

"We
are disappointed that further changes were not made to ensure
Americans' civil liberties would be adequately protected by this
Patriot Act legislation. This truly was a missed opportunity for the
Senate Judiciary Committee to right the wrongs of the Patriot Act and
stand up for Americans' Fourth Amendment rights. The meager
improvements made during this markup will certainly be overshadowed by
allowing so many horrible amendments to be added to an already weak
bill. Congress cannot continue to make this mistake with the Patriot
Act again and again. We urge the Senate to adopt amendments on the
floor that will bring this bill in line with the Constitution."
 

To learn more about the ACLU's work on the Patriot Act, go to: www.reformthepatriotact.org
 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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