Constitution Project Releases Statement on Reforming the Patriot Act

Sunsetting provisions provide opportunity to adopt safeguards for individual rights

CONTACT: Matthew Allee, (202) 580-6922 or

WASHINGTON – As the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties meets today for a hearing on the USA PATRIOT Act, the Constitution Project’s Liberty and Security Committee releases its Statement on Reforming the Patriot Act. Thomas B. Evans Jr., former member of Congress from Delaware and Co-Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union and former FBI agent, both members of the Project’s Liberty and Security Committee, are scheduled to testify before the Subcommittee during today’s hearing.

“The Patriot Act was hastily passed in the wake of the September 11th attacks eight years ago without full consideration of its implications,” said Thomas B. Evans Jr. “Congress missed the opportunity to correct these deficiencies four years ago when the Act was up for renewal. Now that debate has emerged around the sunsetting provisions this year, I hope Congress will use this chance to incorporate strong protections for constitutional rights and civil liberties, while, at the same time, keeping our nation safe. National security and the liberties of American citizens are not competing interests.”

The Statement, signed by a diverse group of 26 policy experts representing the full political spectrum, advocates for significant reform to the three sunsetting sections: the business/library records, lone wolf, and roving wiretaps provisions. It also states that Congress should take this opportunity to revisit and reform the National Security Letter (NSL) authority expanded by the Patriot Act, whose abuse has been documented by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, as well as the Act’s provision allowing deportation and denial of visas based on individuals’ political views.

A week ago today, the Department of Justice sent a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, laying out the Obama administration’s view on the sunsetting provisions. The administration stated its support for their renewal, but indicated it would be open to reform to enhance privacy protections. The Senate will also begin consideration of the expiring provisions in a hearing scheduled for tomorrow in the Judiciary Committee.

“Although the Patriot Act was passed with the commendable goal of providing the federal government with the tools needed to prevent future terrorist attacks, the Act is overly broad and lacks the necessary safeguards to preserve individual liberties,” added Sharon Bradford Franklin, Constitution Project Senior Counsel. “As Congress resumes debate on much-needed reforms to the Patriot Act, we hope Members will follow the Liberty and Security Committee’s recommendations to restore the constitutional safeguards established by our nation’s founders. We are encouraged by the administration’s expressed willingness to consider additional privacy protections, and call on Congress and the administration to work together to ensure that we provide the government with the needed authorities to keep our nation safe, while adopting reforms to safeguard the privacy and individual rights of all Americans.”

Click here to view the Liberty and Security Committee’s Statement on Reforming the Patriot Act.

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