Cross-posted at DailyKos.

If you thought the congressional debate over Terri Schiavo was intense, wait until the one over the Patriot Act begins this week.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are kicking off what promises to be a tumultuous series of hearings about whether to renew key sections of the controversial 2001 law. Roughly half of the law is set to expire on Dec. 31. – (From “The next chapter in the Patriot Act,” by Declan McCullagh, CNET)

In a disclosure that comes a day before Congress begins its review of the Patriot Act, Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director, says: “Despite the secrecy that permeates the Patriot Act, it’s clear that it has been abused and misused.”

[T]he American Civil Liberties Union today responded to an inquiry by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) about abuses of the Patriot Act, saying that the Patriot Act has been abused and misused repeatedly by the government since its enactment. …

See the litany of abuses, a portion of the ACLU response to Sen. Feinstein, and WHAT ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:

According to reports, the Patriot Act has been used to:

  • Secretly search the home of Brandon Mayfield, a Muslim attorney whom the government wrongly suspected, accused and detained as a perpetrator of the recent train bombing in Madrid.
  • Charge, detain, and prosecute a Muslim student in Idaho, Sami al-Hussayen, for providing “material support” to terrorists because he posted to an Internet website links to objectionable materials, even though such links were available on the websites of a major news outlet and of the government’s own expert witness in the case.
  • Serve a National Security Letter (NSL) on an Internet Service Provider (ISP) so coercive under the provisions of the NSL statue that a federal court struck down the entire statute – as vastly expanded by the Patriot Act – used to obtain information about e-mail activity and web surfing for intelligence investigations.
  • Gag that ISP from disclosing this abuse to the public, and gag the ACLU itself, which represents the ISP, from disclosing this abuse to the public when ACLU became aware of it, and from disclosing important circumstances relating to this abuse and other possible abuses of the gag, even to this very day.
  • Investigate and prosecute crimes that are not terrorism offenses, even though it cited terrorism prevention as the reason Congress should enact the law, and cites terrorism prevention as the reason why it cannot be changed.

From the ACLU’s letter to Sen. Feinstein:

ACLU Letter to Senator Feinstein Addressing Abuses of the Patriot Act by the Government

April 4, 2005

Dear Senator Feinstein:

Thank you for your letter of March 25 inquiring about abuses of the USA PATRIOT Act (“Patriot Act”) enacted into law 45 days after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In its three and one-half years, the government has abused and misused the Patriot Act repeatedly, without apology or regret, and while seeking significant expansions of powers granted under the Patriot Act. We are hopeful that at the Patriot Act hearings that commence tomorrow with the testimony of Attorney General Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller, you will explore these abuses and misuses, and will work to curtail them with appropriate oversight and legislation.

Secrecy permeates the Patriot Act. As ACLU’s Timothy H. Edgar pointed out in his brief October, 2003 e-mail message to your staff,[1] many of the most invasive and dangerous powers in the Patriot Act are exercised secretly, and some are accompanied by statutory gag orders. … (Read the entire letter.)

ACTIONS: Write your senator and contribute to ACLU’s efforts.

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