PATRIOT Act Extension: A Chance for Change

Following the last-minute deal to extend the PATRIOT Act for six months, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas had the following statement:

“This is a victory that should send Congress and the White House back to the bargaining table to shape a better bill, one that will protect Americans’ civil liberties and safeguard national security. The extension ensures a spirited public debate, and the chance for the American people to let their members of Congress know how they feel about the critical balance between civil rights and the need to thwart security threats.

“Law-abiding Americans deserve to know that their government will not secretly tap their phones, read their medical records, access their library accounts or otherwise invade their personal lives, with no oversight or accountability. Law-abiding Americans also deserve to know that when law enforcement can show an impartial judge clear evidence of criminal activity or a threat to national security, swift and decisive action will be taken to protect the public. That is the balance we must achieve.

“We will continue to work with the House and the Senate to correct the most egregious excesses of the PATRIOT Act as it stands today. We will also continue our efforts to address the disturbing revelation that the President authorized the phone wiretapping of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans, in secret, without the authorization of any court or judge.

“We must not sacrifice liberty for security. With the breathing space provided by this extension, I am confident that Congress will craft a bill gives law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power they need to thwart threats to our security, while ensuring that the rights of law-abiding Americans are not trampled in the process.”

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