The following is the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act support letter, commending the senators for introducing legislation that will amend many provisions of law that have diminished Americans’ privacy over the last eight years. The letter also urges Congress to pass the bill as soon as possible.
September 23, 2009
TO: Senator Russell Feingold, Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Jon Tester, Senator Tom Udall, Senator Bingaman, Senator Bernard Sanders, Senator Daniel Akaka, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Robert Menendez, Senator Jeff Merkley
On behalf of a diverse group of public interest and other advocacy organizations, we wish to express our support for S.1686, the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools In Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act. We commend you for introducing legislation that will amend many provisions of law that have diminished Americans’ privacy over the last eight years and we urge Congress to pass this bill as soon as possible.
Your legislation recognizes that amending the three expiring provisions of the Patriot Act is only the first step towards restoring Americans’ privacy. Passed in 2001, the Patriot Act and its reauthorizing legislation in 2006 loosened restrictions on domestic surveillance. The 2008 FISA Amendments Act removed the warrant requirement for wiretapping certain communications going into and out of the country. Taken together, these two laws vastly expanded the government’s ability to collect information on Americans.
As Congress begins the process of reauthorizing portions of the Patriot Act, it is critical to take this opportunity to consider and amend these broader authorities that grant the government extraordinary authority to conduct surveillance on U. S. soil. For example, while authority for National Security Letters does not expire this year, the Department of Justice Inspector General found substantial NSL abuses, while a federal appeals court has ruled that the gag provisions of the national security letter statute violate the First Amendment, demonstrating a clear need for reform. Moreover, several other Patriot Act provisions have also been found unconstitutional.
We strongly urge the adoption of the JUSTICE Act, which addresses many of these problems. For example, JUSTICE would:
• Increase protections for communications such as phone calls and emails. S. 1686 amends the FISA Amendments act of 2008 to insure that international wiretapping programs are more targeted and that calls or emails into or out of the U. S. have greater protections. It also requires FISA wiretap orders to identify either the person or place to be tapped instead of permitting warrants that reference neither.
• Provide reasonable safeguards for sensitive records. The Justice Act requires some nexus between a suspected terrorist or spy and private records to be seized. For example, it restricts the national security letter statute and the FISA business orders provision of the Patriot Act so that government requests must relate to terrorists, their activities, or those in communication with them, thereby protecting the phone, credit, library and other records of innocent Americans. The bill also provides a meaningful opportunity to challenge in court both the order to produce records and the accompanying gag order.
• Respect the privacy of homes and businesses. S. 1686 amends the so‐called “sneak and peek” provisions that make it easier for the government to search a home or business in criminal cases without simultaneously telling the owner. The bill insures that secret searches do not become the norm by carefully limiting the circumstances in which this power is available.
Once again, thank you for sponsoring the JUSTICE Act to reform the provisions of law that have so seriously infringed on our privacy. We look forward to working with you to make sure this important piece of legislation becomes law.
American Association of Law Libraries
American Association of University Professors
American Booksellers Association
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
American Civil Liberties Union
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Association of American Publishers
Association of Research Libraries
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
The Brennan Center for Justice
Center for Democracy & Technology
The Center for Justice & Accountability
Center for National Security Studies
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Cyber Privacy Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Feminists for Free Expression
The Freedom and Justice Foundation
The Freedom to Read Foundation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Government Accountability Project
League of United Latin American Citizens
League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Black Police Association
National Coalition Against Censorship
National Lawyers Guild‐‐National Office
People For the American Way
The Rutherford Institute
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
The Woodhull Freedom Foundation