Letter from Bob Barr to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

May 18, 2005

The Honorable Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
211 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: 202-224-1772

Dear Mr. Chairman:

I am writing to respectfully urge the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to reverse its decision to hold Congress’ first mark-up of Patriot Act reauthorization legislation behind closed doors this Thursday, May 19.

Americans are concerned about key provisions of the Patriot Act because they place core constitutional principles at risk, ones that protect our basic individual liberties. Americans expect Congress to be responsive to their concerns, including providing complete visibility into debates and votes on legislation related to that law.

While the Department of Justice and some members of Congress maintain there is nothing wrong with the Patriot Act, public concern is growing and rightfully so. If the Committee holds this mark-up behind closed doors, it will appear to be shutting the public out of the debate. That will only validate Americans' concerns about the law’s most controversial provisions – those that expand the government’s intrusive powers and place ordinary citizens at increased risk of having their homes, as well as personal records about their health, their wealth, and the activities of their daily lives, secretly searched.

What is needed is an open, public debate about fixing the Patriot Act to enable our nation to effectively battle the terrorist threat without sacrificing the very individual freedoms that potential terrorists would seek to destroy. Last month, a solution was offered in the bipartisan SAFE Act of 2005 (S. 737), sponsored by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and co-sponsored by a member of your committee, Senator Jon S. Corzine (D-NJ). The SAFE Act provides Congress an important opportunity to review and consider amending the provisions of the Patriot Act that are out of line with the checks and balances that our Constitution demands for the preservation of liberty.

Congress should be using the debate about the Patriot Act sunset provisions as a springboard into a broader conversation about the health of our Constitution’s system of checks and balances in post-9/11 America. This cannot be accomplished behind closed doors.

We greatly appreciate your consideration on this important matter.

Sincerely,

 

Bob Barr, Chair
Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances


Defend the Constitution