Bob Barr Challenges Decision to Keep Patriot Act Debate Secret
Calls on Congress to Open Patriot Act Hearings to the Public

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2005) - Former congressman Bob Barr, chair of Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, today urged the Senate Intelligence Committee to reverse its decision to hold a markup on legislation to reauthorize the controversial USA Patriot Act behind closed doors.

"When our elected leaders debate laws that present risks to core constitutional principles, they should do it so all can see," said Barr, who recently served as a key witness in Patriot Act hearings before both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. "Yet the Senate Intelligence Committee plans to hold a markup on Patriot Act reauthorization behind a veil. I urge the Committee to respect that Americans are concerned about key aspects of the Patriot Act, and they expect Congress to be responsive to those concerns. That includes providing full visibility into any attempt to advance legislation related to the law.

"Despite increasing pressure from the public, the Bush Administration and key members of Congress have maintained there is nothing wrong with the Patriot Act. Attempts by Congress to keep the public out of the debate only validate Americans' concerns about the law’ s most controversial provisions - those that place constitutionally guaranteed individual liberties at risk.

"Americans from across the political spectrum are calling for an honest, open public debate about fixing the Patriot Act to enable us to fight terror without sacrificing key individual freedoms. The bipartisan SAFE Act, now before Congress, is the right legislative vehicle to carry that debate. It would maintain expanded government authorities necessary to keep Americans safe from terrorism, but place appropriate checks on those authorities so that civil liberties remain intact."

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