October 1, 2004
We, representing a variety of organizations from across the political spectrum, urge you to oppose Kyl Amendment No. 3724 to the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004, the bill currently on the Senate floor to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
The amendment is a bill Senator Kyl introduced earlier this year, the “Tools to Fight Terrorism Act,” S. 2679, and contains the largest expansion of federal powers since the USA PATRIOT Act. It covers issues that are far beyond the scope of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations – issues that should be debated next year during the debate on the PATRIOT Act and should not be decided in one week. We urge you not to allow the 9/11 Commission legislation to become a vehicle for PATRIOT Act II.
The amendment would remove critical checks and balances from the government’s powers in a host of areas. If passed, the amendment would enhance the government’s surveillance powers by, for example, further weakening American’s privacy rights in their sensitive library, medical and other personal records by allowing federal law enforcement officials to obtain such records with a mere administrative subpoena – with no court order or other safeguards. Not only is this bad policy, it is also arguably unconstitutional; just this week a federal court struck down a similar expansion of power in the USA PATRIOT Act that covered telephone and Internet Service Provider records. The amendment would also, among other things, allow for the secret use of secret evidence derived from intelligence intercepts and searches in immigration cases, and in any criminal case compel the judge to hear, in secret, government requests for permission to delete classified information from documents to be provided to the defense.
Regardless of your view of the merits of Senator Kyl’s proposals, this is not the right time to take them up. As the 9/11 Commission explained, we need “a full and informed debate on the Patriot Act.” We should not be further expanding government power without first fully evaluating the powers Congress has already granted.
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression