Conservatives, liberals join to fight reauthorization of Patriot Act 
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 Conservatives, liberals join to fight reauthorization of Patriot Act

"We don't want this argument to be obscured by those who would suggest
that anyone who is for more and more government power is somehow on the
side of the right, and those who are against it or are skeptical of
such grants are on the side of the wrong," said David Keene of the
American Conservative Union. "This is an important question of all
Americans on the left, the right or in the middle."

Conservatives, liberals join to fight reauthorization of Patriot Act

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Conservative and liberal groups normally at each
other's throats over the direction of government are finding common
cause in wanting to gut major provisions of the government's premier
anti-terrorism law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Conservative Union,
Americans for Tax Reform and the Free Congress Foundation are among
several groups that formed a coalition -- Patriots to Restore Checks
and Balances -- to lobby Congress to repeal three key provisions of the
USA Patriot Act.

Having people from all sides of the political spectrum working together
will keep politicians from calling Patriot Act opponents un-American or
willing to help terrorists, which happened during the original debate
over the law, the groups said.

"We don't want this argument to be obscured by those who would suggest
that anyone who is for more and more government power is somehow on the
side of the right, and those who are against it or are skeptical of
such grants are on the side of the wrong," said David Keene of the
American Conservative Union. "This is an important question of all
Americans on the left, the right or in the middle."

For liberals, partnering with conservatives will ensure that the
GOP-dominated Congress and the Bush administration will have to listen
to their concerns, said Laura W. Murphy, outgoing director of the
ACLU's Washington legislative office.

"Given the number of people in this room wearing elephant lapel pins, I
don't think it will be easy for the administration to discount our
message," she said at the news conference Tuesday announcing the
coalition.

The coalition wants Congress to repeal or let expire prosecutors'
Patriot Act ability to easily obtain records in terrorism-related cases
from businesses and other entities, including libraries; the provision
that allows "sneak and peek" searches conducted without a property
owner's or resident's knowledge and with warrants delivered afterward;
and what they called an overbroad definition of "terrorists" that could
include non-terrorism suspects.

The coalition highlighted the provisions in a letter to the president
which also said, "We agree that much of the Patriot Act was necessary
to provide law enforcement with the resources they need to defeat
terrorism."

Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said the law "contains
strong civil liberties safeguards and has a proven track record of
being an effective tool in the war on terror.

"Any suggestion of civil liberties violations is an effort to shift the
focus of the discussion away from the facts," Scolinos said. "There
have been no verified civil liberties violations filed against the
Patriot Act. Period."

Lawmakers set a 2006 expiration date on many of the wiretapping and
surveillance measures, and will begin holding hearings starting in
April on whether they should be renewed.

President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have called for
renewal of the Patriot Act, the government's post-September 11, 2001,
law that expanded its surveillance and prosecutorial powers against
suspected terrorists, their associates and financiers.

Administration officials have said the Patriot Act has kept America
safe, but opponents have called the law intrusive and contend that it
undermines civil liberties and threatens to let the government snoop
into the lives of innocent Americans.

The coalition "is seeking modest changes to only a few extreme sections
of the law," said former GOP Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, the coalition's
chairman. "These changes will secure the important powers of the law
while placing reasonable limits on their use."

And just because the Patriot Act hasn't been abused yet doesn't mean it
won't be by government officials in the future, said Grover Norquist,
president of Americans for Tax Reform.

"Many of us remember what happened with RICO," the Racketeer Influenced
and Corrupt Organizations Act, Norquist said. "It was originally passed
and they were going to go after organized crime figures in dark shirts
and they ended up using it against pro-life demonstrators years later."

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Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:42:32 GMT
 
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