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by Congressman Dennis Kucinich
Washington, Feb 25, 2010
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a vocal critic of the USA Patriot Act and advocate for civil rights, today made the following statement regarding the House vote to extend provisions of the USA Patriot Act:
“This legislation extends three problematic provisions of the PATRIOT Act and, at the same time, leaves some of the most egregious provisions in place, absent any meaningful reform and debate.
“The three provisions being extended today include the “roving wiretap;” which allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to issue secret orders to wiretap any target without having to specify the target or the device. This extension also includes the “lone wolf” surveillance provision, which allows intelligence agencies to conduct investigations of non-U.S. individuals not connected to a foreign power or terrorist group – a provision that the Administration has never had to use. Finally, this legislation would extend Section 215 powers of the PATRIOT Act, which allow the government to order any entity to turn over “any tangible things” as long as it specifies it is for “an authorized investigation.” Section 215 orders constitute a serious violation of Fourth and First Amendment rights by allowing the government to demand access to records often associated with the exercise of First Amendment rights, such as library records.
“Despite years of documentation evidencing abuse of these provisions during the Bush Administration, the Department of Justice has failed to hold Bush Administration officials accountable for illegal domestic spying by barring any lawsuits to be brought against those officials. Months into this Administration, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits,” and that the practice was “significant and systematic.” Passage of this legislation today continues to make Congress complicit in these violations of our basic constitutional rights.
“A letter written by the American Bar Association in 2005 to Members of Congress expressed grave concern over ‘inadequate Congressional oversight of government investigations undertaken pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…to assure that such investigations do not violate the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments to the Constitution.’ As Members of Congress sworn to protect the rights and civil liberties afforded to us by the Constitution, we have a responsibility to exercise our oversight powers fully, and significantly reform the PATRIOT Act, ensuring that the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans are fully protected. More than eight years after the passage of the PATRIOT Act, we have failed to do so. As National Journal correspondent Shane Harris recently put it, we have witnessed the rise of an ‘American Surveillance State.’ We have come to love our fears more than we love our freedoms,” said Kucinich.