For nearly a year now, the ACLU has been working on Patriot Act reform with Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, a coalition of mostly conservative groups, including the American Conservative Union, Gun Owners of America, the Libertarian Party, and Americans for Tax Reform, among others. With former Congressman Bob Barr as the chair, it has been a positive and productive relationship. Mr. Barr visited central PA in May and June to articulate why all Americans- liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican (or otherwise)- should be concerned about the Patriot Act.
On Tuesday, PRCB stood up again for freedom by calling on Congress to hold “open, substantive oversight hearings” on the administration’s warrant-free domestic surveillance program.
“When the Patriot Act was passed shortly after 9-11, the federal government was granted expanded access to Americans’ private information,” said Barr. “However, federal law still clearly states that intelligence agents must have a court order to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans on these shores. Yet the federal government overstepped the protections of the Constitution and the plain language of FISA to eavesdrop on Americans’ private communication without any judicial checks and without proof that they are involved in terrorism.”
Specter opposed last week’s filibuster on the grounds that he had negotiated everything he could and going back for more just wouldn’t work.
He may have been right before the revelations about the far more widespread use of what are known as national-security letters by the FBI than anyone had suspected (as many as 30,000 having been issued in just one year according to some reports) and the New York Times story revealing that the president had directed the National Security Agency to gather information on U.S. citizens, in direct violation of existing law, but members of both parties last week began to express concerns about what seems to be going on in the name of fighting terrorism.
Here at the ACLU, we don’t check your political affiliation at the door. If you believe in the Bill of Rights, join the party. (That’s Lisa and Amy Laura spinning wax on the turntable.)
Andy in H-burg