ACLU Welcomes New Senate Compromise on Patriot Act Reauthorization, Calls on Congress to Fully Address Concerns on Privacy and Freedom

December 21, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed an agreement reached by the Senate to continue to discuss some of the Patriot Act’s most controversial provisions that were set to expire at the year’s end. This important temporary extension will give Congress more time to make meaningful changes called for by bipartisan members in both chambers of Congress to protect the privacy and freedoms of innocent Americans.

“This agreement is a victory for freedom,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We applaud the Senate for coming to a consensus to continue discussing important reforms to the Patriot Act. The privacy and freedoms of innocent Americans are at stake. We urge the House and President Bush to agree to this sensible compromise. Congress must support the common sense civil liberties protections called for by the ACLU and its allies from across the political spectrum.”

“The ACLU has long been calling for commonsense reforms to the Patriot Act,” added Fredrickson. “Legislators should take the next few months to include much-needed changes that secure our liberties while preserving legitimate law enforcement tools to protect the nation. The fair-minded Senators who reached the agreement today are true patriots. As this process moves forward next year, Congress must modify the law to help ensure that America remains both safe and free.”

The deal reached tonight puts a new a six-month sunset on all of the temporary powers and includes a commitment to revisit early next year the civil liberties concerns that have been raised by Americans across the country. This breakthrough comes on the heels of a letter signed by a bipartisan majority of the Senate calling for a temporary extension, instead of the flawed conference report that was being pressed by the administration. The ACLU urged lawmakers to use this new, short deadline to make substantive changes to the law to help protect the civil liberties and privacy of law-abiding, ordinary Americans.

This agreement was as a result a successful effort spearheaded by Senators John Sununu (R-NH) and Larry Craig (R-ID) to get 52 Senators from both sides of the aisle to join together to call for additional time to make needed improvements to the law, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) worked hard to help broker this important deal to allow for a short extension of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act extension and reform efforts have also been led by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Harry Reid (D-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and by many other Senators working behind the scenes.

“Congress must use this additional time wisely,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel For Legislative Strategy. “The need to review these powers is especially warranted given the recent revelations that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, amended by the Patriot Act, has been bypassed by the administration despite the clear requirements of the law. We hope Congress will reinforce the rule of law and insist on judicial approval of the use of these secret powers; the fundamental First and Fourth Amendment rights of Americans must be protected.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:

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