March 15, 2007
Government Violations and Abuses of the PATRIOT Act Call for Sweeping Changes
Recently, our concerns about the PATRIOT Act have been sadly vindicated as we learned:
- A Department
of Justice Inspector General's report revealed that the FBI
violated Americans' privacy by abusing its power to issue its own
warrants for personal records - National Security Letters (NSLs).
Specifically, between 2003 and 2005, the FBI violated Americans
Fourth Amendment rights and minimal oversight requirements by:
- undercounting the NSLs issued in its reports to Congress;
- failing to obtain follow-up subpoenas when promised,
- issuing NSLs under claims of emergency circumstances, when no emergency existed,
- failing to purge records obtained that had no ties to terrorism or foreign spying.
- The Department of Justice failed to meet its March 9 deadline for reporting to Congress on datamining as required by the PATRIOT Act, and
- The Bush Administration slipped a provision into the PATRIOT Act reauthorization allowing the attorney general to skirt the Senate confirmation process for U.S. Attorneys, by making indefinite interim appointments. This resulted in the firings of eight U.S. attorneys - seemingly for political reasons.
Our Congressional representatives repeatedly asked us over the years to prove government abuses of the PATRIOT Act. We can now give them the proof they asked for, and use these abuses to demand change!
Don't miss this opportunity to call all your members of Congress to demand that the PATRIOT Act be changed to guard against further abuse of Americans' constitutional rights. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 (24 hours) and ask the operator to connect you or look up your senators' and representative's telephone numbers by zip code.
Clearly it's time to demand that:
- Congress set up mechanisms for close scrutiny of government collection and use of personal data, particularly in anti-terrorism programs,
- Congressional oversight in the appointment of U.S. attorneys be restored,
- NSLs be approved by the FISA court or a federal magistrate judge, rather than the FBI's 56 Special Agents in Charge of its field offices;
- The FBI show a connection between the records sought and a terrorist or foreign spy;
- The FBI purge data gathered through NSLs that is no longer needed and report to individuals when their records were secured in violation of the law;
- Congress remove criminal penalties on businesses that do not comply with an NSL;
- Congress provide a meaningful mechanism for challenging NSLs in court;
- Permanent gag orders preventing third-parties from ever telling their customers that their records were given to the FBI be lifted if no evidence is found linking the records with any wrongdoing;
- The government should lose its ability to dispense with any challenge against an NSL or a gag order simply by claiming "national security."
And don't miss these opportunities to watchdog Congress as it holds the following hearings March 21 and March 27:
- "Misuse of Patriot Act Powers: The Inspector General's Findings of Improper Use of the National Security Letters by the FBI" Wednesday, March 21, 2007 at 10:00 a.m., Senate Judiciary Committee
- "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" Tuesday, March 27, 2007 at 9:30 a.m., Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee will continue its Bill of Rights Restoration Campaign, as long as it takes to restore our Constitutional guarantees!
Thanks for all you do!