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Senate Leadership Must Keep Promise, Debate Patriot Act

Demand Progress decries betrayal of Americans' civil liberties

WASHINGTON - Earlier this year Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged a thorough review of the Patriot Act, and a week-long debate on its pending extension.  Now he appears poised to cave to overzealous law enforcement officials and pass a multi-year extension without reforms or even serious debate.

More than 80,000 Demand Progress members have signed petitions demanding reform of the Patriot Act, which have been delivered to the House and Senate, at

The Patriot Act was enacted as a supposedly temporary measure in the wake of 9-11, but portions of it have been made permanent, and the remaining provisions have been extended four times and are set to sunset on May 27th.  With the death of bin Laden, Demand Progress urges Congress to reject the Sensenbrenner amendments and re-institute pre-9-11 legal norm, when reverence for civil liberties was a priority for both Americans and their government. Demand Progress Executive Director Aaron Swartz said, "We need to erase bin Laden's ugly legacy, not extend it. By ending the Patriot Act's erosion of our civil liberties, we can protect the freedoms that make America worth fighting for."

"With bin Laden's demise, the era of the Patriot Act, of spying on Americans who aren't suspected of crimes, of heavy-handed abuse of our dearly held civil liberties, must come to an end," said Campaign Director David Segal.  "If not now, when will lawmakers ever restore our civil liberties?" Progressives and Tea Party Republicans initially blocked a long-term Patriot Act extension in January, but a three month-extension was passed in February.  During the interim, the House and Senate have held hearings on potential reforms to the expiring provisions.

The authorities in question are:


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1) Section 215 powers which make it easier for the government to seize records from people not accused or suspected of crimes.

2) Roving wiretaps which need not specify the devices or the individuals being targeted.

3) The "lone wolf" provision which reduces legal protections for certain individuals by applying the standards used when somebody is an agent of a foreign power.

Demand Progress is a political action committee and online activism group with more than 400,000 members.  In April nearly 3,000 of them called the White House to urge President Obama to veto any bill that lacks sufficient reforms.  Demand Progress aired an anti-Patriot Act ad on MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News earlier this year.


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Demand Progress works to win progressive policy changes for ordinary people through organizing, lobbying, and elections in the United States.

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