RESOLUTION ON THE USA PATRIOT ACT

WHEREAS, the preservation of civil liberties is essential to the well being of a democratic society; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Congress passed a sweeping counter terrorism law entitled the USA PATRIOT ACT 45 days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; and

WHEREAS, on May 6, 2005, the Pennsylvania Bar Association House of Delegates approved a resolution opposing (1) the renewal of Sections 214 and 215 of the Act, (2) the seizure of personal information without probable cause, (3) the execution of search warrants or seizure of property without prompt notification, and (4) the lowering of the evidentiary standard below probable cause for seizure of business records and/or membership lists without prior judicial review; and

WHEREAS, the USA PATRIOT ACT authorized the government to, inter alia: (a) (Section 206) seek wiretap authority which follows the target without having to identify or describe the target; (b) (Section 213) indefinitely delay notification to the target of a “sneak and peek” search; (c) (Section 215) seize highly sensitive medical, library, travel, and business records without probable cause that the target has a nexus to a foreign government or terrorist entity; and (d) (Section 505) impose a gag order on targets of National Security Letters for search and seizure of business and financial records, and organization membership lists without court review; and

WHEREAS, these provisions remove the checks and balances on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms we are seeking to protect by the war on terrorism; and

WHEREAS, more than 367 communities across the United States have adopted resolutions opposing the USA PATRIOT ACT, including Philadelphia (5/24/2003), Pittsburgh (4/26/2004), and York (2/19/2003); and

WHEREAS, several U.S. District Courts have questioned the constitutionality of certain provision of the Act (See Humanitarian Law Project v. Ashcroft, 393 F. 3rd 902, [9th Cir. 2004] and Doe v. Ashcroft, 317 F. Supp.2nd 488, [S.D.N.Y. 2004]); and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Congress has voted to renew most of the above mentioned USA PATRIOT ACT’s provisions; and

WHEREAS, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) has introduced S.1389 to restore some checks and balances to the powers granted under the USA PATRIOT ACT.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports S. 1389 and the amendments contained therein, or similar legislation: (1) to relate Section 215 searches of personal medical, financial, and library records to some individual suspicion of terrorism; (2) to limit the delay in notification of subjects of “sneak and peek” searches under Section 213; (3) to require description with particularity of the target of a Section 206 roving wiretap; and (4) to allow a right to consult counsel and file a challenge to a Section 505 National Security Letter.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association authorizes its Chancellor or his designee to take all steps necessary to effectuate this resolution and communicate its contents to the Bar membership, members of Congress, other bar associations, the press, and other parties deemed appropriate.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: SEPTEMBER 29, 2005