Despite the valiant efforts of liberty-defending congresspersons from both political parties, the House of Representatives just passed an extension of the three USA PATRIOT Act surveillance powers that were set to "sunset" at the end of February by a vote of 275 to 144. Now, the Senate is our last hope to stop PATRIOT renewal and obtain meaningful PATRIOT reform. The Senate will be voting on PATRIOT extensions any day now, so contact your Senators today and urge them to vote NO on the PATRIOT Act!
On Monday, February 14, 2011, the House passed H.R. 514 to once again extend the three expiring PATRIOT powers--"lone wolf" wiretapping, "roving" wiretapping, and "Section 215" secret orders for Internet and business records--until December 8, 2011. The last time Congress extended the PATRIOT Act, in February 2010, Congressional leaders justified the decision by saying it would give Congress the time to fully consider a range of PATRIOT reform proposals. But in a sneak attack on your civil liberties, the just-passed PATRIOT extension bill--which doesn't contain a single new reform to protect your rights--was quickly rammed through the House with no hearings, no Committee meetings, no reform amendments allowed, and hardly any debate before the vote. Now, the Senate is our last hope to avoid a rubber-stamp PATRIOT renewal and obtain meaningful PATRIOT reform.
Three PATRIOT bills have been introduced in the Senate, and the Senate leadership will have to decide whether one of those bills--or the House bill--will go to the Senate floor for a vote before the end of the month. All of those bills would extend the PATRIOT Act for some period of time, but only one of those bills, S. 193 from Senator Leahy (D-Vt.), also contains important new reforms to provide more oversight and accountability over how the government is using its PATRIOT powers. Meanwhile, Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) has predictably introduced a bill to extend the PATRIOT powers *permanently*, while Senator Feinstein (D-Ca.) has undermined Senator Leahy's reform effort by introducing a bill that contains absolutely no reforms and would extend both PATRIOT *and* the far more dangerous FISA Amendments Act of 2008 until 2013.
Particularly in light of continuing revelations about the extent of the government's abuse of its PATRIOT powers, most recently in the EFF "Patterns of Misconduct" report issued late last month, the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions should not be renewed without any new checks and balances to prevent abuse and protect civil liberties. The Senate will be voting on a bill any day, so contact your Senators now to ask them to support the reforms in Senator Leahy's USA PATRIOT Act Sunset Extension Act of 2011 (S.193), and to oppose Senator Feinsteinís S. 289 or any other bill that would extend the PATRIOT Act or the FISA Amendments Act!