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Conservatives: Don't Kill the Patriot Act

By David A. Patten   |   Thursday, 12 Mar 2009 01:47 PM

Citing the devastating terror attacks in Mumbai and London, a dozen House conservatives Thursday introduced legislation to extend the controversial Patriot Act for another decade.

“If there’s one thing we can predict about terrorism it’s that it’s unpredictable,” Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, told The Hill.com. “That’s why law enforcement and intelligence officials must remain vigilant.”

The extension is expected to run into stiff opposition from the ACLU and other organizations that charge the Bush administration used the Patriot Act to conduct domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.

House minority leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday: “The Patriot Act is a part of helping to keep America safe and we’ve got to do everything we can in this time of economic crisis to protect our citizens from those who’d want to harm us.”

The ACLU, however, called for a review of all U.S. surveillance laws, adding there is “little evidence” the act has kept Americans safer.

“The Patriot Act vastly – and unconstitutionally – expanded the government’s authority to pry into people’s private lives with little or no evidence of wrongdoing,” stated a 39-page ACLU report titled Reclaiming America: A Call to Reconsider the Patriot Act.

The ACLU’s opposition appears to stop just short of calling for outright repeal of Patriot Act provisions. But the organization recommends several key provisions be amended.

President Bush signed The USA Patriot Act into law by in October 2001, about six weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

Among its provisions: Broad authority for federal agencies to review e-mail communications, access individuals’ library records, and leeway to conduct foreign intelligence-gathering within U.S. borders. The Act, which also granted the Treasury secretary greater power to regulate foreign organizations’ financial transactions, was modified and extended in March 2006.

Several Patriot Act provisions are scheduled to expire at year’s end unless it is extended. Among the House Republicans signing on as co-sponsors of the bill: Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.

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