PATRIOT ACT REAUTHORIZED BUT BATTLE FOR REFORM CONTINUES

In early 2006, Congress reauthorized the Patriot Act without fixing the law’s most fundamental flaws. On March 9, 2006, President Bush signed the flawed reauthorization bill into law.

The ACLU is obviously disappointed with this outcome, the fight to reform the Patriot Act is far from over. Lawmakers have introduced legislation to ensure that needed changes are made to the Patriot Act, protecting our liberty and privacy. Both Congress and the courts are examining the National Security Letter (NSL) provisions of the act.

Additionally, Congress failed to include commonsense reforms to the Patriot Act that would target our precious anti-terrorism resources on suspected foreign terrorists rather than invading the privacy of innocent people through fishing expeditions into their financial, medical, library and Internet records. We need to contact our legislators and tell them to reprioritize our limited resources.

There are signs of progress in the mdist of it all. The Patriot Act debate has come a long way in the last four years. When the Senate first voted on the Patriot Act, only one Senator opposed it — on this year’s reauthorization vote, ten Senators opposed it. And a bipartisan group of 52 Senators stood up to the administration and filibustered the reauthorization bill late last year.

In the House, bipartisan majorities supported bills to limit the reach of the Patriot Act by placing better checks and balances into the law — moves that were ultimately overridden by the Republican House leadership at the behest of the Bush administration’s knee-jerk opposition to common-sense reforms.

Since the Patriot Act was first debated and passed, we’ve made tremendous progress. Thanks to your efforts, the White House was unable to secure the rubber stamp reauthorization and expansion of the Patriot Act it had hoped for. This debate over the need to protect our most fundamental freedoms laid the foundation for the public’s rejection of the president’s abuses of power, including the warrantless NSA program to spy on Americans. Now, more than ever, Americans are aware of the Bush administration’s reckless policies, and they are speaking out.

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