Local Communities Join ACLU to Urge Patriot Act Reform In New Phase of National Campaign

June 17, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON -Elected officials from communities that have passed Patriot Act reform resolutions visited Washington yesterday to urge congressional leaders to fix sections of the Patriot Act that put Americans’ privacy and civil liberties at risk. Their travels to Washington are part of a new phase of the American Civil Liberties Union’s campaign to reform the Patriot Act’s most extreme provisions.

“”Elected officials and people around the country have worked tirelessly to bring the Patriot Act in line with the Constitution, and in the next few weeks their efforts will come to a head,”” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “Some in Congress are pushing to not only reauthorize the entire act, but expand it. It’s imperative that Americans join together in calling for Patriot Act reform, and let Congress know that we expect them to protect our rights and civil liberties.””

Nearly 400 communities across the nation, including seven states, have passed local resolutions opposing the act’s most intrusive surveillance powers. These resolutions have been passed by communities ranging in political ideologies, from the conservative state of Montana to the progressive state of Hawaii, and from cities as large as New York to small towns like Elko, Nevada.

ACLU members will be reaching out to their neighbors to let them know how the Patriot Act affects us all. Last week, activists took to the streets wearing sandwich boards that displayed personal information, like “”I took Viagra this morning”” and “”I keep a handgun hidden in my home office.”” Their message: the Patriot Act puts Americans’ privacy at risk by allowing law enforcement agencies to get orders to secretly access medical, financial, religious, and gun purchase records. In addition, some provisions of the law allow law enforcement agencies to get orders to secretly search Americans’ homes or offices.

This week, the ACLU is also unveiling a new Web site, www.reformthepatriotact.org, to help citizens speak out and get more involved in the fight to protect the Constitution. Through this Web site, people can contact their lawmakers and urge them to oppose efforts to expand and make the Patriot Act permanent. They can also urge their lawmakers to, at a minimum, support the common sense reforms in the bipartisan SAFE Act.

The Bush administration has threatened to veto legislation passed this week by the House of Representatives that would reform the controversial “”library records provision”” of the Patriot Act. The “”Freedom to Read”” proposal, offered by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), denies funding for FBI access to library and bookstore records under section 215 of the Patriot Act, and was approved by a bipartisan majority (238-187).

“”In the coming weeks, lawmakers must decide whether to listen to the American people, and reform the Patriot Act, or to listen to the administration, and radically expand it,”” said Romero. “”We encourage people across the country to send the message, loud and clear, that lawmakers must restore our fundamental freedoms.””

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