Patriot Act Needs Comprehensive Reform, ACLU Testifies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 30, 2011 CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union testified before a key House subcommittee today on the need for comprehensive reform of the USA Patriot Act. Three troubling provisions of the Patriot Act are currently up for renewal this year and will expire on May 27 without congressional action. Since it was rushed through Congress just 45 days after September 11, the Patriot Act has been misused and abused by law enforcement to infringe on the privacy of innocent Americans. “By expanding the government’s authority to secretly search private records and monitor communications, often without any evidence of wrongdoing, the Patriot Act has violated our most basic right – the freedom from unwarranted government intrusion into our private lives – and thwarted constitutional checks and balances,” said Michael German, ACLU Senior Policy Counsel and former FBI Special Agent, in his testimony. “Under the Patriot Act, the government has the right to know what you’re doing, but you have no right to know what it’s doing.” The provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire next month are the John Doe roving wiretap provision, which allows law enforcement to conduct surveillance without identifying the person or location to be wiretapped; Section 215, or the “library records” provision, which allows the government to gain access to “any tangible thing” during investigations; and the “lone wolf” provision, which permits surveillance of non-U.S. persons who are not affiliated with a terrorist group. All three provisions lack proper and fundamental privacy safeguards. A number of inherently flawed Patriot Act provisions are not expiring this year and also need reform, including the National Security Letter (NSL) provision.

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