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House Fails American People And Constitution By Reauthorizing Patriot Act, NYCLU Charges

As the House of Representatives approved a final set of amendments to the fundamentally flawed bill to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment that the small package of amendments failed to protect the liberty and privacy of ordinary Americans.

These amendments and the reauthorization bill passed the Senate last week without the changes needed to ensure these extraordinary powers are focused on suspected foreign terrorists and not innocent people. The House approved the flawed conference report last December.

Even some proponents of the compromise agree that more needs to be done to restore checks and balances. Yesterday, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to require judicial review of the National Security Letters powers made more coercive and punitive under the reauthorization. The NYCLU applauded recognition that the Patriot Act remains severely flawed and needs to be fixed in more significant ways than the cosmetic changes approved this month. The NYCLU and the ACLU opposed passage of S.2271 because it imposed additional restrictions on the First Amendment rights of those who receive demands of financial, medical, library or other sensitive records, among other problems in the bill.

“Today’s vote failed the American people and the Constitution,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “Proponents of the law claim that the reauthorization achieves key ‘civil liberties protections,’ but the facts don’t match the rhetoric. Under the reauthorization bill, the government is still able to seize personal records without notice, search a private residence without criminal suspicion, and initiate terrorism investigations of people engaged in constitutionally protected political and religious activities. We commend those among the majority of New York lawmakers who voted against reauthorization. But we will continue to raise our voices with the tens of millions of Americans who believe we can be safe and free – who want Congress to repeal those sections of the Patriot Act that eviscerate fundamental rights and liberties.”

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