DownsizeDC.org
February 10, 2010
PATRIOT ACT: Let Congress fail one more time
By James Wilson

Three provisions of the PATRIOT ACT are due to expire at the end of this month. These provisions are . . .

1. Business Records: allows searches on your personal data without your knowledge if the FBI convinces a judge it is "relevant" to a terrorism investigation. The data could be computer-related, financial, medical, or even your library check-out history
2. Lone Wolf: allows the federal government to spy on a foreign person with no known ties to a foreign government or terrorist group -- a power that's never been used
3. Roving Wiretap: allows federal agents to intercept phone conversations without having to specify the person being investigated or which phone is being used

The House and Senate can't seem to agree on reforming the Patriot Act. They might, however, agree on another temporary renewal of these provisions for 2-6 months.

We have a better idea. Use DownsizeDC.org's "I am not afraid" campaign to tell Congress to just let these provisions expire.

You may borrow from or copy this letter . . .

Last month it was revealed that the FBI illegally collected 2,000 phone records by falsely claiming a terrorism emergency. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60I0KB20100119

I consider this not just a crime by the FBI, but a failure of Congress as well. I wonder if Congress even cares about the abuse of powers you've given the Executive Branch.

Since the original USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001, Congress has failed . . .

* to provide basic civil liberties protections in its Patriot Act and FISA Amendments legislation
* to narrowly focus surveillance and search powers to suspected terrorists and information directly related to terrorism; instead, it has given the Administration sweeping powers to snoop on anyone who accidentally and incidentally comes into contact with a suspected terrorist
* to provide sufficient oversight of the Administration's vast new powers
* to hold the FBI or Executive Branch officials accountable for law-breaking

The House did pass H.R. 3845, which restores several important civil liberties that were lost in the Patriot Act. But the Senate seems unwilling to pass it.

I'm hoping for a different kind of failure. If the Senate refuses to pass H.R. 3845, I hope Congress "fails" to pass any temporary extension of the Patriot Act's expiring provisions.

* the House should stand firm and insist on passing H.R. 3845 with no further watered-down compromises
* Senators should filibuster any bill that does not restore civil liberties protections
* do NOT let this issue drag on for another few months by passing a temporary extension

I do not believe letting these provisions expire will make me less safe, I believe their expiration will make me *more* safe. In fact, I believe repealing the Patriot Act altogether would make me safer than I am now . . .

* safer from terrorism, because this would force intelligence and law enforcement agencies to investigate actual suspected terrorists instead of targeting anyone and everyone;
* safer from my own government, because I won't live in fear of being spied on or falsely caught up in an investigation

I hope this letter encourages and emboldens you to do the right thing.

END LETTER

You may send your letter using DownsizeDC.org's Educate the Powerful System.

Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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