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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Udall, Bingaman Push for Reform of Patriot Act, Repeal of Telecom Immunity

Sen. Udall discusses JUSTICE Act

Now this is change we can believe in. U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman today joined in introducing legislation to reform the Patriot Act and other surveillance laws to better protect Americans’ constitutional right to privacy while providing the government with the tools necessary to effectively fight terrorism.

According to a joint statement released today by the Senators, the legislation, titled the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act, would:

  • Add reasonable safeguards for the FBI’s use of National Security Letters, which require the disclosure of sensitive personal information by banks, credit card companies, and telephone and Internet service providers. NSLs don’t require judicial approval, and recipients are barred from revealing that the records were demanded.
  • Repeal retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications companies that complied with the government’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.
  • Modify the so-called “John Doe” roving wiretaps, which allow the government to monitor suspects who may be trying to escape detection by using multiple phones or other communication devices.
  • Revise the “library records” provision, which currently allows the government to obtain orders for private records of American citizens even if they are not suspected terrorists. New safeguards would require the government to show that the individual has some connection to terrorism or espionage.

Click for a Fact Sheet (pdf) on the JUSTICE Act.

“The 2001 Patriot Act, its 2006 reauthorization, and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 failed to protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans and did nothing to guard against potential abuse,” Udall said. “The JUSTICE Act strikes the right balance between respecting the needs of our law enforcement to pursue suspected terrorists and upholding the rights of law-abiding citizens to live free from unnecessary government intrusion in their lives. I firmly believe we can keep our nation secure without infringing on the inherent rights of the American people.”

“We must provide law enforcement with the tools they need to protect our country, and do so in a way that also safeguards Americans’ rights. This legislation addresses both of these important objectives by ensuring our security and upholding our cherished constitutional protections,” Bingaman said.

Udall, a former federal prosecutor and New Mexico attorney general, was one of just 66 members of the 435-member House of Representatives to vote against the 2001 Patriot Act. He also opposed the 2006 Patriot Act reauthorization and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act after expressing strong objections about the impact of the proposals on the privacy rights of Americans.

The JUSTICE Act has been endorsed by more than two dozen organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, the Brennan Center of Justice, PEN American Center, and the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation.

Sponsors of the legislation include: Russ Feingold (D-WI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

September 17, 2009 at 06:50 PM in Civil Liberties, National Security, NM Congressional Delegation, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Telecommunications | Permalink


"The JUSTICE Act" seems a good start, however, far as I am concerned Bingaman needs to account for why he so willingly supported that UN-American legislation in the first place.

Posted by: VP | Sep 18, 2009 7:38:11 AM