Monday, March 1, 2010

Congress OK's Spying On Americans

I just received an email from the ACLU which said:
Yesterday, the House passed a one-year extension of three expiring Patriot Act provisions without making much-needed changes to the overly broad surveillance bill.

With this extension, Congress failed to address proper privacy safeguards in the Patriot Act, including:
* Amending the national security letter (NSL) statute to ensure that the government obtains financial, communication and credit records only of people believed to be terrorists or spies;

* Requiring the government to convince a court that a national security gag order is necessary;

* Terminating the "lone wolf" authority that permits the government to spy on people who are not part of a terrorist organization; and

* Ensuring that the so-called "library records provision" does not authorize collection of library and bookstore records if they contain information on a patron unless he is a terrorist or spy.

Since the Patriot Act's passage in 2001, there have been several consecutive reports — including one released in January — from the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General that have outlined widespread and blatant abuse of the statute. FBI agents routinely claimed false terrorism emergencies to use "exigent letters," or emergency letters, in order to gain private records for investigations when no emergency existed. The FBI also regularly issued NSLs after the fact in an attempt to legitimize the use of exigent letters.

"Though the debate over reauthorizing the Patriot Act may be over this year, Congress still has the power to narrow the use of NSL powers and help avoid such abuses in the future," said Michelle Richardson, ACLU Legislative Counsel. "It's time to rein in the overbroad power of the NSL and bring the statute back in line with the Constitution."

Although the outcome is not what we had hoped, we made progress. In the House, 97 representatives, 10 of which were Republicans, voted against extending the Patriot Act. Some members of Congress justified this extension by promising that the next year would provide time for real reform. You can bet we're going to hold them to their promise. And we'll be turning to you to help keep the pressure on.
Write congress, vote them out, or whatever your solution is.


  1. Can't put the genie back in the bottle, can we? I'm sure the Bushies realized this (Cheney in particular), when they rammed the thing through in the aftermath of 9-11. Same with DHLS. Another mammoth bureacracy that really only does what DoD should have been doing all along (albeit even MORE poorly, if that's even possible), and now we're stuck with it until the end of our days or the empire, whichever comes first. Wonder why Joe Stack was pissed? I think we ought to name a political movement after the guy.

  2. disaffected,

    Violating the constitution is the only time there are bipartisan votes.

    The congress is all warm and fuzzy when it comes to violating the constitution.

    Obama signed the bill to show his bipartisan flava.

  3. Don't worry, guys, H Clinton will soon accuse China of hacking again, and that should deflect any attention from this issue. So, we can all go back to sleep, resting sure that we know who the enemy is.

    (I apologise for the above comment, I am not usually so sarcastic :))