Earlier today, Larisa Alexandrovna of RAW STORY reported on the 70-page position paper released by House Judiciary Democrats outlining their disenting view on the renewal of the PATRIOT Act as now being debated on the House floor.
In a statement obtained by The BRAD BLOG for today's debate, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, called several of the PATRIOT Act provisions --- 16 of which are now up for renewal --- into question, cited hundreds of instances of "abuse" and outlined those provisions which he viewed as the most significant threat to our civil liberties.
Citing evidence of "a few provisions that are subject to abuse, and need greater checks and balances," Conyers outlined three of the provisions specifically of concern during debate today of "HR 3199 USA Patriot and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005"
Amongst those which Conyers' expressed concerned about is Section 215 which allows for the FBI to obtain any record "relevant" to an investigation, including library books and medical records. Conyers said that targets are not allowed to tell anyone --- even their own attorneys --- about such records requests. The provision has been "abused," said Conyers', citing reports from the American Library Association alone of some 200 such requests since September 11.
Another concern is Section 505 which allows the FBI "to obtain financial, telephone, internet and other consumer records" without requiring prior judicial approval. Though this provision has been found unconstitional by Federal Courts, the Bush Administration continues to use it, according to Conyers.
Conyers also cites the provision which allows so-called "sneak and peek" searches in homes, cars and business, even when there is no emergency. The provision --- which Conyers' says was not in the version of the PATRIOT Act that came out of Judiciary Committee conference but was added by the Administration "in the middle of the night" --- has been "subject to wide spread abuse." The provision, the statement says, has been used more than 240 times...Moreover, only 10% of these uses have had anything to do with terrorism, the purported justification of the PATRIOT Act."
Conyers also calls for renewed "sunsets" to the current PATRIOT provisions, rather than making them permanent as the Bush Administration has called for.
The BRAD BLOG has obtained Conyers' statement which follows in full [emphasis from the original document as obtained via Conyers' office]...