President Bush, Attorney General Gonzales Continue Patriot Act Offensive; ACLU Says Administration’s Statements Continue to Be Misleading, Inaccurate

December 21, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Following a renewed offensive by President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales on the Patriot Act reauthorization debate, the American Civil Liberties Union today condemned the ongoing inaccurate and misleading statements of the administration and said that the White House’s unwillingness to place better, commonsense safeguards into the law are the cause of the Congressional stalemate.

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

“In their efforts to get a faulty renewal of the Patriot Act passed, the administration is continuing its campaign of deceit and misguidance. The Patriot Act did not bring down the so-called ‘wall’ hampering information-sharing between intelligence officers and law enforcement agents. Information-sharing between criminal and intelligence investigators occurred before the Patriot Act amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. More information could have been shared than was and bureaucratic misinterpretation helped create the wall, as the federal courts found.”

“This point is supported by the FISA court and the bipartisan 9/11 Commission; even the Justice Department has admitted that there was sharing of information between intelligence and criminal investigators. In a letter sent to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner in May of 2003, the Justice Department stated that there was ‘no legal impediment to introducing in a criminal prosecution evidence obtained through FISA before the USA PATRIOT Act.’ The 9/11 Commission noted that inefficiencies within the intelligence community were the biggest hurdle for information-sharing and that FISA did not bar such sharing. The debate about the ‘wall’ is a red herring, an attempt to deflect concerns about the genuine civil liberties concerns about the Patriot Act.

“Even if the Patriot Act were to expire, it would not end current investigations. The law ‘grandfathers’ current cases, permitting foreign intelligence investigations already in process to continue with the powers. It is an exaggeration for the administration to claim otherwise. The changes called for by lawmakers from both parties would place meaningful checks and balances into the law, far better than those contained in the current compromise agreement. The House has not adjourned sine die; lawmakers can still make those modest corrections.

“The White House’s unwillingness to support a three-month extension of the Patriot Act is absurd. The president and attorney general claim that the powers are vital and yet they refuse to support a simple extension. Supporting an extension would permit lawmakers more time to come to a consensus on how to keep America both safe and free.

“Furthermore, recent accounts that the president authorized the National Security Agency to engage in domestic spying without a court order and without oversight only demonstrate the need for meaningful civil liberties protections for innocent Americans. True patriotism requires that lawmakers not blindly concede to the demands of the executive; it requires that they stand for our precious freedoms and protect our Constitution.”

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

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