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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Business Groups Join ACLU and Criminal Defense Lawyers to Limit the USA Patriot Act

From Bloomberg: "Even in Washington, this isn't a coalition you see every day. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, the nation's two largest business groups, have formed an alliance with the American Civil Liberties Union and criminal-defense lawyers to oppose portions of the USA Patriot Act...The groups want Congress to limit provisions allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to demand, with only limited review by judges, that companies turn over personal records of customers, suppliers and employees. The ACLU is concerned about privacy rights; businesses are worried about lawsuits, and even criminal liability if the disclosure of records violates foreign privacy laws.

``Government is looking to deputize in-house counsel and, generally, businesses,'' says Susan Hackett, senior vice president of the Washington-based Association of Corporate Counsel, a group representing company attorneys that opposes the provisions. ``You're opening yourself to liability,'' particularly to overseas suits, says Hackett, the group's general counsel. ``It could be incredibly onerous and incredibly expensive.''

The Patriot Act expires at the end of the year unless Congress renews it. Negotiators for the House and Senate meet this week to reconcile their differing versions of the renewal legislation. The Senate version takes into account many of the business-civil liberties coalition's concerns; the House version doesn't...The lobbyists are focusing on two particular provisions of the law. One of them, which allows investigators to use so- called National Security Letters to request records, has been invoked about 30,000 times a year, according to the Washington Post. The Justice Department won't confirm that number, saying it's a secret.

The business and rights groups -- which include the Washington-based National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which represents 47,500 attorneys, judges and law Professors -- are asking that the new version of the law require more judicial oversight of the requests, a position that is opposed by President George W. Bush." [Mark Godsey]

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