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Reform Jewish Leader Responds to House Passage of the Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill
In response to House passage of the Patriot Act reauthorization bill, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement, "Although the debate over reauthorization of the Patriot Act now comes to a close, it is essential that our community remains steadfastly committed to an appropriate balance between national security and civil liberties."

Saperstein:  Although the debate over reauthorization of the Patriot Act now comes to a close, it is essential that our community remains steadfastly committed to an appropriate balance between national security and civil liberties.

Washington, March 8, 2006 - In response to House passage of the Patriot Act reauthorization bill, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. has recognized the need to recalibrate the balance between protection of our civil liberties and the realities of security in a new world.  The Patriot Act, adopted in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 attacks, contained several provisions that raised concerns about a disproportionate diminishment of liberties in the name of security.  The intervening years and the process of reauthorizing the Patriot Act have allowed members of Congress and all Americans to consider these issues in greater detail.  The Reform Movement, which has recognized the need to provide law enforcement with tools that are crucial to combat terrorism, welcomes the positive changes to the Patriot Act included in the reauthorization legislation, such as the protection of names of lawyers consulted by recipients of National Security Letters as well as the clarification that libraries functioning in their traditional roles are not subject to these letters. These are two important steps toward reaffirming our nation’s cherished commitment to civil liberties.

At the same time, the passage of this bill constitutes a missed opportunity to address other provisions in the Patriot Act that have been of great concern to Reform Jews and others. For instance, the legislation fails to include a provision that would require evidence linking the recipient of a National Security Letter or Section 215 order to an actual terrorism investigation or an agent of a foreign power.

Although the debate over reauthorization of the Patriot Act now comes to a close, it is essential that our community remains steadfastly committed to an appropriate balance between national security and civil liberties. We must continue to advocate for the humane treatment of those in U.S. custody, as well as their right to counsel and due process. And we must demand real oversight of the National Security Agency’s warrant-less wiretapping of individuals inside the U.S.

The Reform Movement has long been committed to the protection of civil liberties, and while the tragic events of September 11, 2001 made clear to all Americans the need to defend our nation against such attacks, they also reminded us of the compelling need to protect the freedoms and values that have allowed liberty to thrive in America.  As we move forward and consider issues of national security, we will continue to strive to ensure the proper balance between these essential concerns.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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