The Patriot Act is (again) up for renewal this month. Now remember, it was initially enacted as a supposedly temporary measure in the wake of 9-11, but more and more of it keeps getting made permanent and the rest has been continually extended for the past decade. With the death of bin Laden, it's finally time for Congress to bring back the pre-9-11 legal norm, before we decided it was okay to toss out our civil liberties if the "bad guys" were scary enough.
A key debate is brewing as the vote grows near: the right wing will argue that bin Laden's demise is evidence that the Patriot Act was justified, despite there being no evidence that it helped in any way in the search for bin Laden (other than constantly distracting law enforcement with thousands of spurious leads). We believe it's now time to fix the Patriot Act once and for all. We must erase bin Laden's ugly legacy, not extend it: by ending the Patriot Act's erosion of our civil liberties, we can protect the freedoms that make America worth fighting for.
Progressives and Tea Party Republicans initially blocked a long-term Patriot Act extension in January, but a three-month extension was passed in February. During the interim, the House and Senate have held hearings on potential reforms to the expiring provisions. The authorities in question are:
- Section 215 powers which let the government secretly grab information about you without a court order
- Roving wiretaps which let the government spy on people without even telling courts who they're spying on
- The "lone wolf" provision which lets strip the rights of American citizens and treat them under the lower legal standards reserved for enemy governments
These provisions were always unjustified, always an over-reach of the government's authorities, initially enacted only because a terrorized citizenry was too fearful to prioritize defense of its constitutional rights. With bin Laden's passing it should be clear to all Americans: the era of the Patriot Act, of spying on Americans who aren't suspected of crimes, of heavy-handed abuse of our dearly held civil liberties, must come to an end.
Nearly 75,000 Demand Progress members have urged Congress to fix the Patriot Act. In April 3,000 of them called the White House to urge President Obama to veto any bill that lacks sufficient reforms. Demand Progress aired an anti-Patriot Act ad on MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News earlier this year. Now it's your turn to help.
Click here: sign our petition urging Congress to fix the Patriot Act.