Rare Bipartisan Group Acts to Safeguard Civil Liberties
Following the vote to block the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act in the Senate today, People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas had the following statement:
“The vote in the Senate to block the PATRIOT Act is a victory for every American who loves liberty, and understands the cost of freedom. There must be a careful balance between protecting our country against attack, and preserving the precious civil rights and liberties that make this country free. We supported many of the positive changes made in the Senate version of the bill to safeguard civil rights. However, the excesses of the Act as it stands today endanger our liberties, and do little to make the nation safer from terrorists.
“This nation must not become a place where the government can tap our phones, read our medical records, access our library accounts and invade our personal lives and property without providing a shred of evidence that some criminal activity has taken place, and without the review of an impartial judge.
“The stunning story in the New York Times today that hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans have had their phones wiretapped without any judicial review makes all too clear the case against excesses in the PATRIOT Act. The fact that the surveillance was done by the National Security Agency – which in the past has been dedicated to surveillance only on foreign soil – make the story even more chilling, and underscores the need to safeguard basic rights for American citizens.
“We can protect the nation and our civil rights at the same time. We can give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power they need to investigate wrong-doers, and make sure that the rights of innocent citizens are not trampled in the process.”
As debate continued in the Senate, the ultimate fate of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization remained unclear; however, Neas said the strong vote today should ensure that the legislation is revised to protect individual civil rights and liberties.