Patriot Act Needs Comprehensive Reform, ACLU Testifies

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

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

Patriot Act Needs Comprehensive Reform, ACLU Testifies

Group Urges House To Adopt Surveillance Law Fixes In Senate’s JUSTICE Act

WASHINGTON - The
American Civil Liberties Union testified before a key House
subcommittee today on the need for comprehensive reform of the USA
Patriot Act. The ACLU has challenged the Act both in the courts and in
the halls of Congress in the nearly eight years since its passage.
Three surveillance provisions – the John Doe roving wiretap provision,
Section 215 or the “library records” provision and the “lone wolf”
provision – are up for renewal this year and will expire on December 31
if Congress does not take action.

 
The
ACLU is seeking comprehensive reform of the Patriot Act and is urging
Congress to revisit other surveillance laws expanded in recent years to
bring them back in line with the Constitution. The ACLU also urges
Congress to pass the JUSTICE Act, a bill introduced in the Senate last
week to narrow several provisions of the Patriot Act and other
surveillance laws, including the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, by
inserting privacy and civil liberties safeguards into each law. The
bill was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the
Constitution Chairman Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Judiciary
Committee Member Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL).
 
“The
Patriot Act has not only been a minefield for Americans’ rights, it
also started a steady expansion of many of America’s surveillance
laws,” said Michael German, ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and
former FBI Special Agent. “In the wake of 9/11, Congress hastily
amended and expanded the government’s authority to conduct domestic
surveillance without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Congress must now
seize the opportunity to bring these laws in line with the Constitution
by passing the JUSTICE Act.”
 
Since
it was rushed through Congress just 45 days after September 11, the
Patriot Act has paved the way for the expansion of government-sponsored
surveillance including the gutting of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA) to allow dragnet collection of Americans’
communications. Over the last eight years, numerous expansions of
executive authority have worked in tandem to infringe upon Americans’
rights. Only by understanding the larger picture of the combined
effects of Patriot Act, the amendments to FISA and other changes to
surveillance law can Congress make an informed, consistent and
principled decision about whether and how to amend all of these very
powerful surveillance tools.
 
“The
Patriot Act fundamentally altered the relationship Americans share with
their government,” said German. “By expanding the government’s
authority to secretly search our private records and monitor our
communications, often without any evidence of wrongdoing, the Patriot
Act eroded our most basic right – the freedom from unwarranted
government intrusion into our private lives. Put very simply, under the
Patriot Act the government now has the right to know what you’re doing,
but you have no right to know what it’s doing. The time for Patriot Act
reform is long overdue.”
 
The full Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on the Patriot Act Wednesday.
 
The ACLU’s testimony can be read at:  www.aclu.org/safefree/general/41067leg20090922.html
 
To
read the ACLU’s report “Reclaiming Patriotism” and learn more about the
three Patriot Act provisions up for expiration this year, go to: www.reformthepatriotact.org
###

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.

Share This Article

More in: