ACLU Says Cosmetic Changes to the Patriot Act Hollow, Measures Approved by the House Fail to Protect American Liberty and Privacy

March 7, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – As the House of Representatives approved a final set of amendments to the fundamentally flawed bill to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment that the small package of amendments failed to protect the liberty and privacy of ordinary Americans. These amendments and the reauthorization bill passed the Senate last week without the changes needed to ensure these extraordinary powers are focused on suspected foreign terrorists and not innocent people. The House approved the flawed conference report last December.

Even some proponents of the compromise agree that more needs to be done to restore checks and balances. Yesterday, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to require judicial review of the National Security Letters powers made more coercive and punitive under the reauthorization. The ACLU applauded recognition that the Patriot Act remains severely flawed and needs to be fixed in more significant ways than the cosmetic changes approved this month. In fact, the ACLU opposed passage of S.2271 because it imposed additional restrictions on the First Amendment rights of those who receive demands of financial, medical, library or other sensitive records, among other problems in the bill.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Today’s vote failed the American people and the Constitution. Proponents of the law claim that the reauthorization achieves key ‘civil liberties protections,’ but the facts don’t match the rhetoric. The Patriot Act could have been reformed to protect our security and liberty by focusing the resources on suspected foreign terrorists but, at the Bush administration’s insistence, Congress chose to ignore common sense reforms in favor of cosmetic changes.

“Although the debate about this reauthorization is finished, the fight to balance our security with liberty is far from over. We applaud those lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, who stood firmly in their commitment to the fundamental freedoms protected by the Constitution. Congress must continue to work to reform the Patriot Act until it is actually more protective of our civil liberties. Our elected representatives should listen to the millions of Americans who demand that we both safe and free, rather than pay heed to partisans in the administration opposed to modest reform.”

To read more about the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:

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