Bill of Rights Defense Campaign

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February 10, 2006

Bill of Rights Defense Committee Calls for PATRIOT Act Filibuster

Nancy Talanian, Director
Chip Pitts, President, Board of Directors
Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Northampton, MA — The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) today strongly criticized a backroom PATRIOT Act deal made in Washington, DC, for failing to address the Act’s most serious shortcomings. BORDC is calling for filibuster on the new reauthorization bill, urging its grassroots community members and allies, at the root of the 401 Bill of Rights resolutions passed nationwide, to demand that their Congress members block a vote on the bill.

"The light cosmetic changes in this deal are a slap in the face to people of this country who have worked hard in their communities to pass resolutions to protect our quickly eroding liberties," said Nancy Talanian, BORDC's director.

Talanian connects the remaining PATRIOT Act shortcomings regarding FBI National Security Letters and access to private records to the current controversy over the NSA warrantless wiretaps. “The proposed PATRIOT Act deal fails to protect private business, financial, medical and library records of Americans with no ties to terrorism from secret FBI searches, just as the current NSA warrantless wiretapping fails to protect innocent Americans’ private phone and email communications.”

Chip Pitts, president of the BORDC board of directors, agrees. “The people have spoken through the more than 400 resolutions, calling for individualized suspicion and checks and balances to be inserted into the PATRIOT Act. Congress as the people’s representative has a duty to ensure those basic constitutional standards are met.”

The minor amendments in the proposed compromise do not meet even the basic requirements demanded in this historically unprecedented expression of democratic sentiment in our country, nor do they meet the basic changes insisted upon by the nation’s leading business organizations and the broad coalition of conservative as well as progressive groups that have closely followed these issues. Under the proposed reforms, the library, bookstore, medical, business and other records of innocent Americans may still be seized without any demonstrated link to actual terrorism or crime, but merely upon a loose standard of “relevance” that will continue to allow government fishing expeditions. The purported right to challenge the otherwise permanent gag order on recipients of government search and seizure demands under section 215 applies only after a year – which is ludicrously long and no meaningful protection at all – and even then will be defeated via “conclusive” presumption upon the government’s say so.

Says Pitts, “The United States of America was founded precisely in opposition to such claims of arbitrary executive power. It is important for Americans who have been standing together regardless of political persuasion for the past four years to say no to this legislation and to support the courageous civil libertarians in Congress who are willing to filibuster until we achieve a law that conforms to the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”