Repeal the detrimental law known as the "Patriot Act" immediately. It does not protect us, and it infringes upon our civil rights. If we exchange our freedoms for safety, are we really beating the terrorists?
Response to Petition
By Lisa Monaco
We have no greater responsibility as a government than ensuring the safety and security of the nation, consistent with the constitutional rights and civil liberties of the American people. As a result, we must be able to use all of the lawful tools at our disposal in a responsible manner, including those authorized by the USA PATRIOT Act. Our laws must provide our counterterrorism professionals, including those in our law enforcement and intelligence communities, with the ability to collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence and law enforcement information effectively and efficiently. At the same time, the government must act within the Constitution and consistent with our values, and we must ensure that the government's actions are subject to appropriate oversight and rigorous checks and balances. Thus, after extensive congressional scrutiny and hearings, the Congress, on a bipartisan basis, recently reauthorized the provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were previously set to expire, and the President approved the measure, because it extended critical authorities that were needed to protect our national security.
The PATRIOT Act includes a number of changes to prior law that are now fundamental to the way we conduct national security investigations, and these changes have greatly enhanced the ability of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice to protect Americans from international terrorism and other national security threats. For example, the original PATRIOT Act lowered the "wall" between law enforcement and intelligence professionals that was identified after 9/11 as one of the factors impeding our ability to share information and to prevent terrorist attacks. It also made a number of changes to our investigative tools that have made national security investigations more effective and efficient. For example, the ability of law enforcement and intelligence professionals to work together more effectively played a key role in enabling the government to respond quickly in September 2009 to thwart the plot by Najibullah Zazi and others to attack the New York City subway system.
While these are important tools, we do not need to sacrifice the privacy and civil liberties of the American people for security. As noted above, all investigative techniques used by the government must be employed in a responsible manner that is consistent with our laws, including the U.S. Constitution, and our values. It is also important to note that many of these tools are subject to rigorous oversight by the different branches of government. For example, with respect to the three provisions of the PATRIOT Act that were recently extended, approval of the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court is needed before the government may use any of these authorities, robust substantive standards and procedural protections are in place within the executive branch, and the Congress continues to exercise its oversight responsibilities.
In addition, as a policy matter, this Administration has taken further steps to ensure that our counterterrorism professionals protect privacy and civil liberties. These additional steps have enhanced standards, oversight, and accountability, without sacrificing the operational effectiveness and flexibility needed to protect our citizens from terrorism, and without sacrificing the collection of vital foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information. For example, we have adopted policies requiring that certain investigative authorities be employed only where specific facts support their use and have adopted procedures governing the collection, use, and storage of information obtained through other authorities.
Lisa Monaco is Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, Department of Justice