SECURITY: Patriot Act Expansion Bill Approved in Secret

Following reports that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday approved – behind closed doors – legislation designed to reauthorize and expand the Patriot Act, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed its disappointment with the secretive process and the end result that tramples on the Constitution.

The following can be attributed to Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy.

“Today’s secret vote was a failure for the Fourth Amendment, the American people, and the very freedoms we hold dear. At a time when Americans from all walks of life are calling for the Patriot Act to be brought in line with the Constitution, the Senate Intelligence Committee went ahead with an unwarranted expansion of the Patriot Act’s already intrusive powers.”

“In a move antithetical to our Constitution, the new ‘administrative subpoena’ authority would let the FBI write and approve its own search orders for intelligence investigations, without prior judicial approval. Flying in the face of the Fourth Amendment, this power would let agents seize personal records from medical facilities, libraries, hotels, gun dealers, banks and any other businesses without any specific facts connecting those records to any criminal activity or a foreign agent. The panel rejected attempts to limit this extraordinary power to emergencies – creating the likelihood that it will be used in fishing expeditions and in investigations unrelated to terrorism.”

“Americans have a reasonable expectation that their federal government will not gather records about their health, their wealth and the transactions of their daily life without probable cause of a crime and without a court order. We hope that Congress will protect America by giving law enforcement the tools they need without sidestepping our Constitution’s fundamental checks and balances.”

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