June 7, 2004
Stop the Secret Expansion of the PATRIOT Act
Next Wednesday, June 16th, the House Intelligence Committee is expected to consider expanding the USA PATRIOT Act by slipping portions of the Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003, HR 3179, into the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005. HR 3179 includes the following provisions from the leaked Justice Department draft of the Homeland Security Enhancement Act, AKA "Patriot II":
- A "lone wolf" provision that applies the Patriot Act's surveillance and investigation provisions to persons acting alone. (The Senate has already passed this as a stand-alone bill.)
- Penalties for failure to cooperate with overbroad powers for the FBI to issue secret National Security Letters (NSLs) requesting private information, with no checks and balances.
- Secret use of information from NSLs in immigration proceedings, which would deny immigrants their fifth and fourteenth amendment protections from being "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
There is no evidence that the FBI needs these provisions. Furthermore, it is too early to consider expanding the USA PATRIOT Act. We have not yet had adequate congressional oversight of how the government is using the surveillance provisions of the PATRIOT Act. Some provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire at the end of 2005, so Congress will need to review them next year -- when all of these issues can be publicly debated and analyzed.
The intelligence authorization bill generally contains many important provisions, and it must pass every year, so it is difficult for members of Congress to vote against it even if it contains some provisions they oppose. Therefore, it is critical to stop the inclusion of HR 3179 in committee.
In this e-mail you will find
- Background information
- What you can do
- Links for more information
- Sample phone scripts and e-mail blog
- Reminder: CLRA introduction Tuesday, June 8
Last year, Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Porter Goss (R-FL) introduced HR 3179, a bill that would expand the FBI's ability to obtain records without a court order and wiretap people without meeting normal constitutional standards. After various organizations voiced opposition to the bill, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HR 3179 last month, where former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) testified against the bill.
After the hearing, it was reported that Rep. Goss, who is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was likely to tack the provisions of HR 3179 onto the annual intelligence authorization bill, which his committee debates and votes on behind closed doors.
You may recall that last December, another section from Patriot II, which expanded the FBI's ability to use secret National Security Letters, was tacked on to the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 without the knowledge of most members of Congress. It was passed, and President Bush signed the bill on Saturday, December 13, the day of Saddam Hussein's capture by U.S. forces in Iraq. Texas Congressman Ron Paul called the tactic "a stealth enactment of the enormously unpopular 'Patriot II' legislation."
To stop this stealth tactic from being reused, the grassroots must show its strength and resolve to protect and restore our civil liberties.
What You Can Do
If you oppose this bill and the undemocratic process of, please call your House of Representatives member during a National Call-In Week to Protect Civil Liberties. Tell your Rep. that you oppose expanding the PATRIOT Act and do not want the House Intelligence Committee to tack provisions of HR 3179 onto the intelligence authorization bill. (See sample phone script below) To obtain the phone number for your Representative, call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-225-3121 or visit http://www.congress.org.
Links for More Information
- HR 3179's Bill Text, Summary, and Status
- Conservative Opposition to the Bill
- Bob Barr's full testimony before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security's hearing on HR 3179, which was held on May 18th
Sample Phone Script and E-mail Blog
Call your Representative's office and tell the staff person who answers the phone:
Hi, this is [Your Name] from [Your Hometown]. I am calling to urge Representative [Last Name] to oppose HR 3179. I understand that the House Intelligence Committee may tack the entire bill onto the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2005 at a closed markup session on June 16th. I ask that Representative [Last Name] contact members of the House Intelligence Committee and urge them to oppose both HR 3179's provisions and their inclusion in the authorization bill. HR 3179 would expand the PATRIOT Act and I do not think those important issues should be decided behind closed doors. Congress must take up the PATRIOT Act next year when it reviews the sunset provisions, and all of these issues should be publicly debated next year.
Sample E-mail or Blog Message
Please spread the word by telling family, friends, and colleagues to call their Representatives as well by posting the following message in a blog or e-mail:
Legislation is pending in the U.S. House of Representatives to expand the USA PATRIOT Act -- and there are reports that HR 3179 will get slipped into an intelligence agency bill that will be debated and voted on behind closed doors on June 16th. Please urge your Representative to oppose this bill, and to oppose allowing these important issues to be decided without public participation. Congress should be adding oversight provisions and judicial checks and balances to the PATRIOT Act, not expanding it behind closed doors. More information.
Reminder: CLRA introduction Tuesday, June 8
Thank you to the organizations that have signed on to the Civil Liberties Restoration Act letter of support. The Rights Working Group now has a website (www.rightsworkinggroup.org), which includes talking points on the act at http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/clratp.pdf. Please call your House Member and Senators and urge them to support the bill.
We thank you for taking these vital steps to protect your civil rights and liberties.
Bill of Rights Defense Committee