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CAIR News Bulletin – December 16, 2005

CAIR Applauds Senate Defeat of Patriot Act Extension

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 12/16/05) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group, today applauded the U.S. Senate's vote to reject reauthorizing several provisions of the USA Patriot Act because of civil liberties concerns.

By a vote of 52 to 47, Senate supporters of the act were unable to obtain the 60 votes necessary to overcome a threatened filibuster. Several controversial provisions of the Patriot Act are due to expire at the end of this month. Read: "
Senate Blocks Extension of Patriot Act"

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement:

"We applaud the Senate's decision to reject reauthorization of the Patriot Act unless it has stronger protections for the civil liberties of all Americans. Everyone wants to increase national security, but that goal need not be achieved by sacrificing constitutional rights."

The Washington-based group noted that just today, media reports indicate that President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans without first obtaining court-approved warrants. Read: "
Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"

CAIR said the two Patriot Act provisions of greatest concern to civil libertarians are Sections 215 and 505.

Section 215 allows law enforcement to acquire a search warrant for "any tangible thing." It also forbids the warrant's recipient from telling anyone about the warrant. CAIR and other civil liberties groups support a Senate provision that would have required that the government show that a person whose records are sought has some connection to a terror suspect. Currently, law enforcement officials must merely say the records are needed for an ongoing investigation.

Under Section 505, National Security Letters (NSL) can be authorized by FBI field inspectors. NSLs allow access to such records as financial, business dealings, telephone calls, e-mails, web sites visited, and Internet searches. They do not require a judge's approval and are typically presented to employers or internet service providers who are then prohibited from informing anyone of the request, even their own lawyers. The Washington Post recently reported that a stunning 30,000 such letters are being issued annually.

Earlier this week, CAIR issued an "action alert" calling on Muslims and other people of conscience to oppose reauthorization of the Patriot Act and to support Sen. McCain's anti-torture amendment, which was accepted yesterday by President Bush.

"We would like to thank all those who contacted their elected representatives to express their opinions on these important issues," said CAIR Government Affairs Director Corey Saylor. "The results demonstrate clearly that your voice is being heard." Saylor also thanked the diverse coalition of groups that worked to strengthen civil liberties protections in the Patriot Act.

See also: CAIR Patriot Act Blog, http://cairpatriotact.blogspot.com/