The ACLU Campaigns for Patriot Act Reform

By: Harry Waisbren

The ACLU has come out with a campaign to Tell Your Senators You Want Patriot Act Reform. Their rhetoric is aggressive, including their descriptions of “The Bush administration’s calculated assault on our civil liberties and privacy rights”, the creation of a “surveillance superstructure”, and the need to investigate the abuses in its call for sweeping reform.

It calls for us to—

Please contact your Senators and your Representative right now and tell them it is time to re-examine our security superstructure to restore our civil liberties.

The link leads to an email petition that promotes our “opportunity to bring the Patriot Act in line with the Constitution”. This opportunity, however, requires that we “make sure the Senate Judiciary Committee supports the Feingold JUSTICE Act.”

They argue that in order to adequately reform the Patriot Act, “at the very least”, Congress must make these four critical reforms:

  • Limit electronic surveillance laws such as the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act so that they are targeted only at suspected terrorists and spies and so that personal information about innocent Americans is no longer swept into government programs and databases.
  • Amend the criminal material support statute expanded by the Patriot Act so that it criminalizes only behavior intended to further terrorist activity, not good faith charitable activities of Americans.
  • Amend the ideological exclusion provisions of immigration law expanded by the Patriot Act so that foreign scholars, experts and advocates are not denied visas solely on the basis of their beliefs.
  • Prevent federal agents from spying on individuals and infiltrating organizations based solely on their exercise of First Amendment rights such as religious practice or political protest activities, as permitted under recently revised Attorney General Guidelines.

There’s absolutely no doubt that people will be screaming about how this sort of reform will be to blame for an upcoming sequel to 9/11, which is precisely why I’m such a fan of the ACLU’s aggressive, blunt attitude here. While writing this post I thought about how refreshing it is to hear from civil liberties stallwarts who do not kowtow to “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security” as Ben Franklin described them in his day.

Anyways, good for the ACLU, and when you have a minute, send an email and help their push for Patriot Act reform!


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