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Chellie Pingree, a Welcome Anti-Schwartz on the Patriot Act

A few weeks ago I shared with you a letter Rep. Allyson Schwartz wrote to a Pennsylvanian in her district regarding the Patriot Act. Mostly empty of content and otherwise incorrect, it’s the sort of communication that gives constituents a fed up, exasperated, not-gonna-vote-for-you-again kind of feeling.

I’d like to share with you the text of another letter, one I received in today’s mail from my own representative, Chellie Pingree of the 1st District of Maine. It also regards the USA Patriot Act, and responds to a letter that I wrote earlier, asking her to vote NO against Patriot Act reauthorization (if you haven’t done so already, please write such a letter yourself). As Chellie Pingree explains in her succinct letter, she did. I have to admit, that’s a big part of the reason I like her letter; but I also respect Pingree’s communication because it is to the point and factually correct. Here’s the letter’s full text:

March 14, 2011

Dear James,

Thank you for contacting me about the PATRIOT Act, also known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. I appreciate hearing from you, and I share your concerns about this issue.

As you may know, the PATRIOT Act was signed into law on October 26, 2001. This bill increased the ability of law enforcement agencies to search telephone, e-mail, financial, and other records of individual citizens. The authority of the Secretary of the Treasury was expanded as well, allowing for the regulation of financial transactions, particularly those involving foreign individuals and entities. The PATRIOT Act also broadened the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism. In the years since it was implemented, countless Americans have raised concerns about this bill’s potential to infringe on civil liberties.

On February 17, 2011, the House passed H.R. 514, which reauthorized the PATRIOT Act through May 27, 2011, and it was signed into law by President Obama shortly after. Like all previous reauthorizations of the PATRIOT Act, I strongly opposed this bill. The reauthorized provisions include the “roving wiretap” authority that allows the government to conduct surveillance on suspects who use multiple devices, a second provision that allows federal law enforcement to pursue a court order for “any tangible thing” they deem may be related to terrorism, and a “lone wolf” provision which allows for surveillance of individuals who are not connected to terrorist groups. I am strongly committed to the security of Americans; however, I believe these methods impinge greatly on civil rights and civil liberties.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to share your concerns about the PATRIOT Act with me. I will certainly keep your thoughts in mind as I work with the Obama Administration and my colleagues in the 112th Congress on issues surrounding our civil liberties and national security.

Again, thank you for being in touch, and I hope to see you in Maine soon.

Sincerely,

Chellie Pingree
Member of Congress

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