Washington, DC (June 1, 2015) – Last night, the U.S. Senate allowed the bulk phone data collection, ‘roving wiretap,’ and ‘lone wolf’ provisions of the USA Patriot Act to sunset, though their expiration has been reported to be only temporary as the Senate scrambles to work out some sort of compromise on these surveillance issues. As explained in detail in a May 15, 2015 article by Theodore Simon, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), NACDL finds one such possible compromise position – the USA Freedom Act as passed by the House on that date – to fall ‘far short’ of the necessary reforms in this arena.
"The Patriot Act surveillance provisions that sunset last night should be relegated to history and Congress should move on to broader surveillance reform to ensure that any intelligence collection, regardless of which program or agency it is under, is narrowly tailored to meet the government's objective and complies with the constitution," said NACDL President Theodore Simon. "Allowing those provisions to sunset is a good start, but it is not nearly enough. Reforms should also ensure that the accused in criminal cases always have notice of the source of evidence introduced against them as well as access to potentially exculpatory evidence in the vast databases of information gathered through these surveillance programs. There is no Constitutionally sound place for the recently revealed practice of 'parallel construction' – which is the deliberate and deceptive recreation of the source of evidence -- in this country."
Among other provisions, the USA Freedom Act, as adopted by the House, extends through 2019 the Patriot Act's extraordinary "roving wiretaps" and "lone wolf" surveillance programs, which NACDL opposes. At the same time, it also increases the maximum sentence to 20 years for violating the vague "material support" statute, a law so broad that it can ensnare even those who for humanitarian reasons interact with a U.S. government-designated terror group for the purposes of aiding civilians within that group's territorial control or criminalize pure speech.
"As Congress continues this debate, it should take the opportunity to strengthen the reforms in the current USA Freedom Act and to reject any amendments or other legislation that would move us in the other direction," Simon explained.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.