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NCC welcomes the Senate's caution
about renewal of the USA Patriot Act

New York, December 19, 2005 -- The National Council of Churches today praised the U.S. Senate for its caution when it declined to end a filibuster blocking the renewal of the USA Patriot Act. 

"The Patriot Act was hastily enacted after 9/11 in an attempt to protect U.S. citizens from further terrorist violence," said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary of the NCC for International Affairs and Peace. "It's now time to ask ourselves what this law has meant with respect to our most basic freedoms." 

Last month, the General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service passed a resolution calling for "ever-vigilant" support of civil and religious liberties. The resolution expresses concern that the Patriot Act "has the potential for vastly eroding" those liberties. 

"The provisions of the act are in seeming conflict with the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures,"  the resolution states.  "These provisions include:  delayed-notice search warrants to secretly investigate potential criminals; national security letters to secretly gather private and confidential information; relaxed restrictions on wiretapping; and extensive use of deportation and denial of immigrant applications based on unknowing associations."  

Last week President Bush admitted authorizing wiretaps on U.S. citizens and said they were necessary to uncover terrorist plans. Even so, many of the 40 Democrats and four Republicans who voted against a motion to end the filibuster cited this unusual measure as one of their concerns. 

In a series of public statements, Mr. Bush has defended the Patriot Act as a necessary weapon for the war on terrorism. "In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment," he said. The Patriot Act's 16 major provisions will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress extends them. 

"We’re not calling upon the government to abandon its responsibility to defend its citizens," said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the NCC. "At the same time, there is no more eloquent rebuke to our terrorist enemies than to show we will never back away from the religious and civil liberties they seem to hate so much." 

The full text of the General Assembly’s "Resolution on the Threat to Civil and Religious Liberties in Post-9/11 America" can be found here.

Contact NCC News: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252, and Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350.


 

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