Pelosi: Reauthorization of Patriot Act a Massive Invasion of Privacy
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in opposition to extension of provisions of the USA Patriot Act because they would curtail individual liberties. The bill passed the House but faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Below are Pelosi's remarks:
"First, let us be clear about what we are voting on today. We are not voting for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in general. More than 90 percent of the Patriot Act is permanent law and includes many non-controversial provisions that give law enforcement the tools they need. What is before us on the floor today is the extension of certain provisions which are controversial and have the potential for abuse.
"All of us support providing law enforcement officers with the tools required to combat terrorism. In doing so, we must also preserve the balance between security and civil liberties and recognize that not all of the tools that law enforcement officers want are tools that they legitimately need.
"I cannot support the Patriot Act extension conference report because it does not secure the right balance between security and liberty. Our Founding Fathers led a revolution to secure liberty against an arbitrary power. They knew that you cannot have security without liberty, or liberty without security in a democracy.
"As we consider this conference report, I ask every Member of Congress, indeed, every American: Do you know if a national security letter has been issued to your phone company, your Internet provider, or your bank for the wholesale collection of records that may include your personal information? This letter does not even have to specify that the records sought are connected to terrorism. You don't know if such a letter has been issued; you can't know; you will never know.
"This is true for every American and any information including your most sensitive personal data, along with that of thousands of American citizens may be held in perpetuity by law enforcement.
"The recipients, the bank, the phone company, the Internet provider are not allowed to tell anyone they have received this letter. These are searches without any warrant and without any judicial supervision.
"This is a massive invasion of the privacy of the American people, not just some idle threat. The Washington Post reported last month that the FBI hands out more than 30,000 national security letters per year, a reported hundred-fold increase over historic norms. How did this happen?
"This conference has missed an opportunity to address the revelation of the widespread use of national security letters. We must have standards that clarify that there must be a connection to terrorism or to a suspected spy. Section 505 that covers the national security letters must include a sunset. That is why I strongly support the request of Mr. Conyers for a three-month extension so that conferees can reconvene, adopt the Senate bill, fix the national security letters, and get it right. Our democracy requires no less.
"This legislation also needs a requirement that the government show some connection between the records sought under the library provision,' and an individual suspected of being a terrorist or spy. Such a standard is needed to ensure that fishing expeditions do not take place, yet this standard is missing from this Republican conference report.
"The list of failures in this bill goes on. That is why it is important that we support the motion to recommit which calls for adoption of the Senate bill. If the motion fails we must follow Mr. Conyers' lead and take three months to do this right. Nothing less is at stake than our privacy and our civil liberties, really the essence of our democracy.
"When originally enacted the Patriot Act was intended to be accompanied by Congressional oversight so that the implementation did not violate our civil liberties. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have been delinquent in the oversight of the Patriot Act. As we have seen with this massive and unprecedented scope of national security letters, the implications of the Republican failure of oversight are glaring and have a direct impact on every American. It is long past time for Congress to have real oversight.
"We must always remember as we protect and defend the American people, we must honor the oath of office we take here when we are sworn in to protect and defend the Constitution and the civil liberties that it contains. We have an obligation to do better for the American people."