CAIR launches Patriot Act blog
Website focused on unsupervised surveillance powers
WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 1, 2005 - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today launched a "blog," or Internet journal, focusing on the negative civil liberties impact of the USA Patriot Act currently up for renewal in Congress.
CAIR's blog, located at http://cairpatriotact.blogspot.com/, offers information about the unsupervised domestic surveillance powers contained in the legislation and suggests ways in which voters can express their concerns to elected officials. It will be updated daily with new information.
In 2003, CAIR joined five other advocacy and community groups in mounting a constitutional challenge to the section of the Patriot Act that vastly expanded the FBI's power to spy on ordinary people.
Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act are due to expire at the end of December. A House-Senate compromise on renewal was derailed just before Thanksgiving. The renewal process will be concluded within the next few weeks.
CAIR, which has long been working to include civil rights protections in the bill, says the Patriot Act provisions of greatest current concern 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 30,000 such letters are being issued annually. (The Justice Department has taken issue with that claim.)
"CAIR's new blog is part of its final push in an ongoing effort to make sure the renewed Patriot Act protects civil liberties, just as it seeks to protect national security," said CAIR Government Affairs Director Corey Saylor.