WASHINGTON - Appearing before the Department of Justice, President Bush has yet again called on Congress to renew the Patriot Act. While 10 percent of that act is set to sunset at the end of this year, we should be mindful that Congress specifically designed those controversial provisions to expire so that cooler heads could examine, review, and-- if warranted-- amend and renew them.
Indeed, the 9/11 Commission found that "a full and informed debate on the Patriot Act would be healthy." The attorney general noted during his confirmation hearing that he is aware that "there are concerns about possible infringement of civil liberties." Congress has a responsibility to thoroughly examine the Patriot Act’s effectiveness and its impact on our most fundamental freedoms.
Across the country, 371 communities in 43 states - including four state legislatures - have passed resolutions demanding that the Patriot Act be fixed and brought back in line with the Constitution. Some 56 million Americans live these communities - a number that will only increase as the sunset deadline nears.
The president and the attorney general must realize that security and liberty are not - and cannot - be mutually exclusive. Most of the Patriot Act is innocuous from a civil liberties viewpoint, but a few select powers raise constitutional red flags. They should be fine-tuned to give law enforcement the tools they need, but also protect our freedoms and liberties. A system of proper checks and balances must be preserved.
We hope that the new attorney general will truly engage in public debate and ensure that we protect the rights enshrined in our Constitution. Such a dedication does not "weaken our resolve in this new war," as the president has said. It recommits us to ensuring that we remain both safe and free.
For more information on the ACLU’s campaign to Keep America Safe and Free, go to: