November 18, 2005

TO:
  Members of Congress
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  Oppose USA PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

The League of Women Voters urges you to oppose the conference report on H.R. 3199, the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act. We are very concerned that the conference agreement does not sufficiently protect civil liberties. It fails to restore the vital checks and balances taken away by the USA PATRIOT Act.

For the past 85 years, members of the League have been steadfast in their conviction that the need to protect against security threats to America must be balanced with the need to preserve the very liberties that are the foundation of this country. There are fundamental principles that guard our liberty – from independent judicial review of law enforcement actions to prohibitions on indiscriminate searches – that must be preserved.

Since passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, Leagues across the country have been holding citizens’ forums on homeland security and civil liberties. We have learned from these meetings that t he public wants and needs more information from their government officials, not more secrecy.

The conference report provides for more government secrecy in the name of homeland security and anti-terrorism without the checks and balances needed to protect basic civil liberties. It makes most provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act permanent and then extends three of the most controversial provisions for seven years rather than the four years passed by the Senate.

Under the conference report, “sneak and peek” searches will continue using a broad standard that does not provide for adequate judicial oversight. Information about Americans, such as medical, banking or library records, can still be obtained by law enforcement without necessary safeguards. And new enforcement subpoenas will be used to obtain the records of thousands of Americans through National Security Letters (NSLs) which are not even subject to court review. Recent reports indicate that NSLs are being used at an alarming rate of 30,000 annually.

The conference report on H.R. 3199 goes too far. The League of Women Voters urges you to protect our civil liberties by rejecting the conference report.