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Tell Your Representative to Reject the PATRIOT Act Sneak Attack Before Today’s Vote!

Kevin Bankston
Electronic Freedom Foundation

Feb 8, 2011

Tell your Congressperson to vote NO on the USA PATRIOT Act in today’s vote! The PATRIOT reauthorization bill being fast-tracked to the House floor contains NO reforms to the law, and will be voted upon with NO debate and NO opportunity for amendments to add oversight and accountability. Help stop this sneak attack on your civil liberties: there are only hours left to visit our Action Center and tell your Representative to vote “NO” on H.R. 514, the PATRIOT extension bill.

In late 2009, when PATRIOT reauthorization was originally being considered by Congress, many important PATRIOT reform measures were proposed and debated, and a bill filled with powerful new checks and balances was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee. But, as Congress ran up against the renewal deadline, it decided that there was not enough time to fully consider those reforms. So, in February 2010, Congress instead extended the “sunsetting” sections of the law until the end of this February, with a promise to fully consider the issues before the next deadline.

But Congress is breaking its promise to consider reforms to the PATRIOT Act. In a legislative sneak attack, the new Republican leadership in the House is trying push Representatives to rubber-stamp another PATRIOT renewal. The House leaders just announced on Friday that they’ll be “suspending the rules” so that a bill introduced by Rep. Sensenbrenner to extend the expiring PATRIOT provisions until December 8, 2011 will go to the House floor for a vote TODAY, without any debate and without any opportunity for anyone to offer amendments to improve the bill.

In particular, the bill would renew the following dangerously unchecked PATRIOT powers:

• The government’s power under PATRIOT Section 215 to obtain secret court orders for Internet, phone and business records of people who are not suspected of terrorism or spying;
• The government’s “lone wolf wiretapping” power, allowing it to get court orders authorizing secret foreign intelligence wiretaps against individuals who have no connection to any foreign power or terrorist group; and
• The government’s power to obtain blank-check “roving” wiretap orders that can be used to tap any phone number, email account or other communications facility that the government believes is being used by its target.

These provisions should not be renewed, and certainly not without any debate or any new checks and balances to prevent abuse and protect civil liberties. So please act now to tell your Representatives that they should vote NO to the PATRIOT Act in today’s vote!

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