Right-Left Coalition Calls for Senate Version of Patriot Act Reforms, Recent FBI Disclosures Reaffirm Need for Protections Against Abuse

October 26, 2005 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – A recent disclosure that FBI agents violated numerous “authorities granted or expanded” by sections of the Patriot Act prompted a right-left coalition to renew calls for Patriot Act reforms today. The American Civil Liberties Union joined conservative allies to support Senate reforms that would begin to bring the law in line with the Constitution by restoring needed checks and balances.

“The administration has consistently argued that there is no evidence of Patriot Act ‘abuses,'” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This records request, though, specifically asked for documents relating to ‘authorities granted or expanded’ by sections of the Patriot Act. These recent disclosures, from the FBI itself, should lay the administration’s rhetoric to rest. Bipartisan calls for reform are louder than ever, and Congress must seize this opportunity to fix the Patriot Act.”

Both the House and Senate have passed legislation to reauthorize the Patriot Act, portions of which are set to expire at the end of the year. While the House bill only makes cosmetic changes to some of the most egregious provisions and makes the law worse in many ways, the Senate bill fine-tunes the act to better protect civil liberties and privacy. The House has yet to name its conferees who will meet with their Senate counterparts to come to a compromise.

Joining the ACLU at a press conference today were Bob Barr, former member of Congress and chairman of Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, and representatives from the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the Free Congress Foundation, Gun Owners of America and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Earlier this month, a group of business organizations including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors also voiced their support for the Senate improvements.

On Monday, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by EPIC, the FBI disclosed that there were several hundred violations of surveillance powers by the agency from 2002 to 2004. These include a violation of bank privacy rules, an improper physical search, a collection of emails after the authorizing warrant had expired and a failure of FBI agents to notify Justice Department officials of ongoing surveillance.

“As this diverse group shows, when it comes to freedom there are no ideological divides,” said Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy. “We are joined in a common goal – to ensure that there are checks and balances on federal power to preserve our constitutional freedoms. Congress must listen to the millions of Americans that demand we be both safe and free.”

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

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release