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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
This may be of interest to some--a letter written by Idaho Republican Representative Butch Otter...


July 30, 2003

Mr. Jason Clark

Dear Jason,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the "Patriot Act." I appreciate hearing from you and having the benefit of your views.

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our country demonstrated that our country's defenses were inadequate for the new threats we face. President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft asked the Congress for new powers to interdict and prosecute the increasingly de-centralized terrorist networks operating in our country. I agreed that some of the new powers they requested were necessary, and supported large parts of the Patriot Act, which was passed during the 107th Congress.

Some of the provisions of this legislation, however, could not be justified-even in the face of the current threats. For instance, the Patriot Act authorizes no-knock searches of private residences. These "sneak and peak" searches would give the government the power to repeatedly search a private residence without ever informing the residents that they were the targets of an investigation. Section 215 of this bill authorized the government, with the permission of a secret court, to seize the business records of any business establishment in the country, then order the proprietor not to inform anyone that the records had been seized. This extraordinary provision would make every business an adjunct of the government and threaten the 1st Amendment rights of their employees. Section 220 authorized any federal judge to issue search warrants for anywhere in the United States if any terrorist activity whatsoever occurred within his jurisdiction. This places the rights of all Americans at the whim of judges who don't have any connection with the areas which they are issuing warrants for.

Perhaps the worst provision of this legislation is Section 203, which authorizes the unlimited sharing of information between intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement. There are no restrictions on what kind of intelligence may be received or which agencies may receive it. This projects the CIA, NSA, and other such agencies into law enforcement. Giving federal law enforcement agencies access to the almost unlimited collection apparatus of our intelligence organizations is granting a blank check to the federal government.

During the debate on the Patriot Act, I rose on the House floor to remind my colleagues that secret courts, no-knock searches, and nationwide warrants were all things our founding fathers had fought to gain their freedom from. While my colleagues voted by a margin of 357-66 to pass the bill into law, and the Senate voted by a margin of 98-1, I could not vote to abrogate the constitutional rights of my constituents.

In retrospect, many Members of Congress have recognized that the Patriot Act was passed in haste during the emotional few months following September 11, 2001. There seems to be a growing sentiment to roll back some provisions of the Patriot Act and to restore some our of lost liberties-even among my colleagues who supported the legislation when it came before the House. As you may know, I recently offered an amendment to H.R. 2799, the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Appropriations Act of 2003, which targeted the so-called "sneak-and-peek" provisions of the Patriot Act. That this amendment passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 309-118 speaks to the fact that many Americans, Members of Congress and private citizens alike, are demanding a reconsideration of this controversial legislation.

This amendment is just the first step in restoring the fundamental rights and liberties we compromised in the USA PATRIOT Act. I have also joined with Representatives Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul to sponsor another such effort, H.R. 1157, the Freedom to Read Protection Act of 2003. I will continue working with my colleagues-Republicans and Democrats alike-on legislation that will bring balance back to the equation of protecting our rights and providing for our homeland security. In the meantime, you can be confident that I will adamantly oppose any legislation that expands or strengthens the dangerous provisions of the Patriot Act and will use my good office to work with citizens and groups from around the country to protect our freedoms.

Thank you once again for contacting me.

As always, "Idaho - Esto Perpetua"
C.L."Butch" Otter
Member of Congress