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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Congress Rejects PATRIOT Act Re-Write, Improvements Still Possible

In intellectual freedom, public policy on December 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

On Friday the House and Senate both completed their mark ups of PATRIOT Act reauthorization bills. Here’s a quick update from the Center for Democracy and Technology:

Congress Rejects PATRIOT Act Re-Write, but Modest Improvements Still Possible

1)    House and Senate Committees Renew PATRIOT with Mostly Minor Changes
2)    The Risks of National Security Letters
3)    House Bill Offers More Significant Change to NSL Authority
4)    Obama Administration Uses Secret Briefings to Resist Strong Standards for FBI Investigations

House Judiciary Session Scheduled

In activism, information policy, privacy, public policy on October 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

The House Judiciary Committee is expected for a classified hearing on Patriot Act issues and proposed surveillance reforms on Thursday October 29 at 2:30pm EST. There are several ways to stay up-to-date and participate in the public discussion. But, most importantly, contact your state reps right now and consider writing an editorial in your local papers.

1. Contact your representatives now using the new action forum posted by the ACLU. The action text, thankfully, draws attention to some of the oversights in the current reform legislation, calling on representatives to continue pushing for stronger public protections and repeal of expanded FBI powers. In particular we need to continue demanding changes to Section 505 as well as the slippery definition of “material support” which leaves social justice and human rights organizations vulnerable to targeting and criminal prosecution. Add your own two cents now.

2.Write an op-ed or letter to the editor. I haven’t done a Nexis search to confirm this, but Get FISA Right posted on Tuesday that media coverage of the surveillance reform bills H.R. 3845 and H.R. 3846 has been slim to nonexistent. Here they provide Letter to the Editor templates you can use to raise these issues in your local papers.

3. Participate in today’s live discussion at the Patriot Act Action Hub.

Read more:

From today’s Huffington Post: Sen. Wyden warns Congress to abandon hasty fear-based policymaking.

From Irregular Times: A round up of information on the reform legislation being considered, H.R. 3845 and 3846.

See also, my prior posts on the California Library Association’s Patriot Act resolution (make your own!) and the need for deeper coalition building on these issues (includes more recommended resources).

Calif. Library Association Asks Congress to Do What Judiciary Did Not

In intellectual freedom, libraries, library associations, privacy, public policy on October 13, 2009 at 11:43 am

October 13, 2009 • SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Library Association (CLA) has just announced a resolution calling on Congress to dramatically revise the up-for-renewal USA PATRIOT Act, passed hurriedly in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

Librarians have been front-line opponents of certain provisions of the PATRIOT Act since its passage. The Act has made it possible, under Section 215, for the FBI to request and obtain library records for large numbers of individuals without reason to believe they are involved in illegal activity. This jeopardizes the basic ethics of the library profession, expressed in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association.

Expanding on the American Library Association’s PATRIOT Act resolution last July, the CLA resolution goes further to address imminent First and Fourth Amendment concerns with Section 505. This provision grants the FBI broad authority to sidestep constitutional safeguards though use of National Security Letters to obtain information.

CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee chair, Mary Minow, a leading expert on library law, said, “It’s past time for the blatantly unconstitutional aspects of this legislation to be removed from the books, and now is the opportunity for Congress to act.”

Two sections of the PATRIOT Act are currently up for reauthorization, with sunsets at the end of December 2009, and librarians across the country see this as an opportunity to correct those provisions that attack basic civil liberties. CLA’s resolution calls for Congress to allow Section 215 to sunset, to amend Section 505 to “include a clear exemption for library records,” and in general to intensify Congressional oversight of the use of the Act.
* CLA Resolution on 2009 Reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act (PDF, 481k)

For more information, please contact:

Mary Minow, Chair,
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee
408-366-0123

Amy Sonnie, Member,
CLA Intellectual Freedom Committee,
415-823-0497

or cla_ifc  [a t]  earthlink [dot]  net

Legislation to Watch: H.R. 1476 and 1800

In intellectual freedom, privacy, public policy on April 26, 2009 at 11:02 am

Last month, two important pieces of legislation were proposed in the House.

The Safe and Secure America Act, H.R. 1467, was introduced on March 12, 2009 by Sen. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill proposes a 10-year extension on “roving” wiretap powers and government access to library patron records. These provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act are scheduled to sunset this December. Rather than revise the constitutionally questionable sections, this bill would extend them (and the much contested FISA Amendments) until December 31, 2019. Stay up to date: Track H.R. 1467 here.

The National Security Letters Reform Act of 2009, H.R. 1800, was introduced March 30, 2009, by Rep. Jerrold Nadler. The bill raises the standard needed for the FBI to obtain National Security Letters, and stipulates that NSLs must not be used to spy on U.S. residents based solely on First Amendment activities. See ACLU “Legislation Introduced To Curtail Patriot Act Abuse” (3/30/09), and stay up to date: Track H.R. 1800 here.

Broad Coalition Offers Recommendations for Obama Administration & Congress

In elections, governance, information policy, prisons, privacy, racial justice on December 9, 2008 at 7:30 am

libsecA coalition of human rights, media reform, civil liberties and progressive policy groups put forward an agenda for the new administration that’s worth reading. It includes recommendations and resources for policy change around detention and interrogation, immigration, surveillance, and privacy.

From the introduction on Secrecy, Surveillance, and Privacy:
In the last months of the Bush Administration the Department of Justice rewrote the Attorney General Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) for FBI investigations, removing important restrictions on the FBI’s investigative authorities and opening the door to racial profiling. The new Guidelines consolidated existing Guidelines governing FBI criminal investigations, national security investigations, and foreign intelligence collection operations, which the Bush Administration had already loosened considerably in 2002, 2003, and 2006, respectively. But the new Guidelines go much further by overturning longstanding limitations on FBI investigations of public demonstrations, and authorizing the FBI to conduct invasive “assessments” without having a factual predicate to justify an investigation of any kind.

Read the full document here.

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