House Holds Hearing on Reauthorization of the Patriot Act

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Claire O’Brien, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

House Holds Hearing on Reauthorization of the Patriot Act

Expiring Provisions Should Be Reformed, Not Extended, Says ACLU

WASHINGTON - The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security today heard testimony regarding the reauthorization of three troubling provisions of the Patriot Act. A three-month extension of the expiring surveillance provisions in the Patriot Act passed last month. The American Civil Liberties Union is urging Congress to make more permanent, meaningful reforms to the law before the short-term extension expires on May 27.

“The time for Congress to reform the Patriot Act is now,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This law has been in place for far too long without any reasonable limits placed on the intrusive and extensive power that it grants our government. The Patriot Act shreds the fundamental protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. Congress needs to move past short-term extensions and work to make sure that Americans’ privacy and freedoms do not remain at risk.”

Last month, the president signed a temporary extension of the three troublesome expiring provisions, including the John Doe roving wiretap provision, which allows law enforcement to conduct surveillance without identifying the person or location to be wiretapped; Section 215, or the “library records” provision, which allows the government to gain access to “any tangible thing” during investigations; and the “lone wolf” provision, which permits surveillance of non-U.S. persons who are not affiliated with a terrorist group. All three provisions lack proper and fundamental privacy safeguards.

“For nearly a decade, the Patriot Act has left innocent Americans vulnerable to unwarranted invasions of privacy, and yet our lawmakers have failed time and again to make any meaningful changes to this reactionary law,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The right to privacy is a cornerstone of our country’s foundation. Congress needs to put meaningful privacy safeguards in place to ensure that Americans are free from the over-reaching and unfettered surveillance that the Patriot Act makes possible.”

The Senate currently has several pieces of pending legislation regarding the Patriot Act. The first bill, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), would mandate enhanced oversight of Patriot Act surveillance authorities but still allow the problematic sections to remain in effect. The second bill, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would extend the provisions for three more years. The third bill, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would make the three provisions permanent. A fourth bill, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), would narrow the “library records” provision and mandate that any request sought under it would be directly related to a terrorist, his activities or his associates.

To learn more about the Patriot Act and the ACLU’s work to reform it, 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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