May 25, 2011

Udall: Reauthorizing Patriot Act without Debate, Amendments is Mistake

Controversial Provisions Undermine Constitutional Rights of Citizens

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), took to the Senate floor today to reaffirm his opposition to the Patriot Act, saying that the law undermines the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens.

Udall's remarks came as the Senate prepares to vote this week on a reauthorization of the three controversial provisions within the law that fail to protect the privacy rights of innocent Americans and do nothing to guard against potential abuse. Those provisions are: roving wiretaps, government access to ‘any tangible items' such as library or business records, and the surveillance of targets who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

The Patriot Act - which was first passed nearly a decade ago in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - did not receive the necessary congressional debate and scrutiny before it was passed. Only after Congress blindly expedited the passage of the far-reaching piece of legislation, was its power to undermine the constitutional right to privacy of law-abiding citizens revealed.

Udall, a member of the House of Representatives at the time, expressed deep concerns about the bill - and was one of only 66 members to vote against its passage.

"Almost ten years later, we still haven't had the debate that we need to have on this piece of legislation. The world's greatest deliberative body has not weighed in with amendments. We have not moved forward in a serious way to try and tackle this piece of legislation that is so important to our country, to our freedom, to our liberty," Udall said during his floor remarks.

Yesterday, Udall voted against a procedural maneuver in the Senate that would allow quick consideration and passage of the reauthorization. He plans to vote against final passage of any bill that has not been thoroughly debated - or has had opportunity to be amended - by the full Senate.

In 2009, Udall helped introduce the Judiciously Using Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act to address those concerns.

"To govern in a post-9/11 world, we have to strike the delicate balance of thwarting the terrorist actions of some, without infringing on the constitutional guarantees of the vast many. We are failing to strike that balance today by forcing this reauthorization of the Patriot Act without scrutinizing the long-term ramifications of the law," Udall said.