With almost no warning and little opportunity for public input, the House and Senate are both preparing to vote this week on renewal of three key sections of the PATRIOT Act which are set to expire later this month. Senator Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of much of the act, has pushed for an early vote on Tuesday, possibly to take advantage of public nervousness over the crisis in Egypt.
The Republican Liberty Caucus believes that the PATRIOT Act is a direct assault on the Constitution and individual liberty and urges all true Republicans and all Americans who believe in the principles on which this nation was founded to contact their Representatives and Senators and tell them that it is time for the PATRIOT Act to go and that we are done with sacrificing our liberties for the illusion of safety.
The three sections which are being considered for renewal are Sections 206, 215 and 6001. We believe that all of the elements of the PATRIOT Act should be reconsidered, but these three sections which are up for renewal are particularly dangerous violations our Constitutionally protected rights.
Section 206 allows roving wiretaps in which the FBI can tap into any phone, wireless or data transmission without a warrant or any due process. They don’t even have to identify their target. Recent evidence suggests that abuse of this power has been widespread in the last 5 years.
Section 215 lowers the standard of proof necessary to obtain private or professional records, eliminating the need to demonstrate their relevance to any specific case, essentially allowing “fishing expeditions” to gather data on pure speculation. It also authorizes the use of non-judicial National Security Letters in place of traditional warrants, with an attendant gag rule barring targets of these investigations from disclosing any abuse or harassment they were subjected to. The ACLU has filed a number of lawsuits in defense of victims of this rule and sections of it have already been ruled unconstitutional in court.
Section 6001 is the notorious “lone wolf” rule which allows government agents to obtain secret surveillance orders against any individual, even if they are not directly linked to any international terrorist group or foreign nation. The entire idea of secret warrants is contrary to the principle of due process of law and judicial oversight under the 4th Amendment.
All three of these provisions center on the covert surveillance of US citizens with little or no proof of their involvement in terrorism. There is an Orwellian quality to the powers granted by these provision. They put the entire population under observation, violating the privacy of millions in the hopes of catching a few terrorist associates who could have been caught by more traditional means, as has been the case with almost every terrorist arrest since 9/11. We believe in protecting citizens from terrorism, but protecting their rights from overreaching government is just as important.
“The Bill of Rights exists for a reason,” said Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Dave Nalle, “and it has become clear that while there may be threats from terrorism, they are not great enough to justify the assault on our rights which is embodied in the PATRIOT Act. The language of these sections is so broad and so open to abuse that they could easily be used against even the most innocent among us for political or personal reasons. What is the value of safety if we no longer have the liberty to truly enjoy it?”
We urge Americans who believe in liberty and the Bill of Rights to call or email their members of Congress and tell them to say a clear “no” to any renewal of the PATRIOT Act. Remind them that in the 2010 elections we voted against the intrusive security state and that we will hold those who support any renewal of the PATRIOT Act accountable in 2012.
To contact your representatives, use the convenient form at ContactingtheCongress.org.