Archive for the ‘JUSTICE Act’ Category

c/0 EFF UPDATE >> Julian

It appears that the only television news network that’s been regularly covering the PATRIOT Act renewal process in Congress has been FOX News, and its coverage has seemed a lot more like pro-PATRIOT propaganda than unbiased news reporting. Fortunately, Julian Sanchez of The Cato Institute has been fact-checking this closely.

In other news….

Obama Sides with Republicans; PATRIOT Act Renewal Bill Passes Senate
Judiciary Committee Minus Critical Civil Liberties Reform

It looks like most of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee weren’t swayed by last week’s New York Times editorial, which suggested they consider USA PATRIOT Act renewal a “critical chance to add missing civil liberties and privacy protections, address known abuses and trim excesses that contribute nothing to making America safer.”

Instead, the Committee passed a bill to renew all of the PATRIOT powers that were set to expire at the end of the year, with only a handful of the original reforms that were first proposed by Senators Feingold and Durbin’s JUSTICE Act and Committee Chairman Leahy’s original PATRIOT renewal bill.

No, rather than adding more protections to the bill, the Committee voted to accept seven Republican amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act to remove the few civil liberties protections left in the bill after it was already watered down at the previous Committee meeting. Surprisingly and disappointingly, most of those amendments were recommended to their Republican sponsors by the Obama Administration.

As Senator Feingold so elegantly stated in his post-vote blog post on Daily Kos: “In the end…Democrats have to decide if they are going to stand up for the rights of the American people or allow the FBI to write our laws.”


Tell your Senators to support PATRIOT reforms like those in the JUSTICE Act!

EFF Supports JUSTICE Bill to Reform the USA PATRIOT Act and Repeal Telecom Immunity

Legislative Analysis by Kevin Bankston

On December 31, three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that broadly expanded government surveillance authority in the wake of 9/11 are set to expire.1 The Obama Administration made clear in a letter this week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that although the Justice Department supports reauthorization of those provisions, it is also open to discussing modifications to the law “to provide additional protection for the privacy of law abiding Americans.”

Today, Senators Russ Feingold and Dick Durbin — along with eight other Senators — have taken the Administration up on its offer by introducing the JUSTICE Act, which would rein in the worst excesses of PATRIOT and last year’s FISA Amendments Act (FAA). The announcement of the bill’s introduction, along with a fact sheet outlining the bill’s details, is here; the text of the JUSTICE Act is here (the “JUSTICE”, if you’re wondering, stands for Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts”).

The JUSTICE Act would renew two of the three expiring PATRIOT provisions, PATRIOT sections206 (John Doe roving wiretaps) and 215 (FISA orders for any tangible thing), but would also add strong new checks and balances to those provisions and to the PATRIOT Act in general, especially those provisions dealing with the government’s authority to issue National SecurityLetters. If passed, the bill would also establish critically important protections for Americans against surveillance authorized under the FAA. Of particular importance to EFF’s clients in theHepting v. AT&T case and to the preservation of the rule of law, JUSTICE would completely repeal the FAA provision intended to legally immunize telecoms like AT&T that illegally assisted in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. Last summer when Congress passed the FAA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated his intention to revisit that law as part of the PATRIOT renewal debate, and we’re very glad that Senators Feingold and Durbin have kick-started that process.

We’ll be blogging more about the JUSTICE Act and other PATRIOT-related proposals in anticipation of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing next week on PATRIOT reauthorization, and we’ll alert you when the time is ripe for you to contact Congress through our Action Centerand voice your support for PATRIOT reform. In the meantime, EFF applauds Senators Feingold and Durbin, as well as cosponsoring Senators Akaka, Bingaman, Menendez, Merkley, Sanders, Tester, Udall, and Wyden, for their continuing hard work to protect Americans’ civil liberties. EFF would prefer that none of the expiring PATRIOT provisions be renewed, but if they are, they absolutely must be accompanied by meaningful new checks and balances like those introduced today. It’s time that JUSTICE was restored.

  1. 1.Actually, although the three expiring provisions are commonly referred to in the press as being PATRIOT provisions, one of the expiring provisions — the so-called “lone wolf” wiretapping provision allowing the government to target for foreign intelligence surveillance individuals that have no link to any foreign power or terrorist organization — was actually passed as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Legislation Would Also Narrow Overly Broad Surveillance Laws

WASHINGTON – September 17 – Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) today introduced legislation that would narrow several provisions of the Patriot Act and other surveillance laws, including the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA). Three sections of the Patriot Act – the John Doe roving wiretap provision, Section 215 or the “library records” provision and the “lone wolf” provision – are up for renewal this year and will expire on December 31 if Congress does not take action. The American Civil Liberties Union has endorsed the new bill, the JUSTICE Act, and calls on Congress to move quickly to pass it.

“Over the past eight years, Congress and the executive branch have allowed for more and more surveillance while doing little to protect Americans’ privacy rights,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The JUSTICE Act is a much needed remedy for the overbroad and out of control surveillance in our country. Given that three of the Patriot Act’s provisions expire at the end of the year, it’s vital that Congress pass the JUSTICE Act as quickly as it can so that proper action can be taken to protect Americans’ privacy rights.”

The JUSTICE Act would make vital changes to the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act by inserting privacy and civil liberties safeguards into each law. The JUSTICE Act would amend the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act by establishing a standard of individualized suspicion, mandating meaningful judicial review and requiring thorough reporting on the FBI’s use of NSLs to Congress. The NSL provision of the Patriot Act greatly expanded the FBI’s ability to secretly demand sensitive and private customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit bureaus without prior judicial approval and to impose gag orders on record demand recipients. The ACLU has successfully challenged the constitutionality of the amended NSL statute’s gag provisions in a lawsuit called Doe v. Holder. A lower court ruled in 2007 that NSL gag provisions were unconstitutional and in December 2008 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that ruling in part, agreeing that the NSL statute’s gag provision violated the First Amendment.

The JUSTICE Act would restrict the sweeping wiretapping powers given to the government in the FISA Amendments Act passed last year, preventing agencies from conducting bulk collection of Americans’ communications. The Act would also repeal a highly controversial provision in the FAA that granted immunity to telephone companies that aided the Bush administration in its illegal and unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping program.

“This bill will give our surveillance laws the overhaul they so desperately need, restraining the government from unconstitutionally collecting vast amounts of data about innocent Americans,” said Michelle Richardson, ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Ensuring public reporting is a crucial part of keeping our government’s surveillance powers in check. Holding law enforcement accountable for how it uses these tools will not only help to preserve Americans’ privacy, it will ultimately keep us safer. Congress must make passing the JUSTICE Act a priority.”

To learn more about the ACLU’s work on the Patriot Act, go to:

The ACLU conserves America’s original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.