COLUMBUS – Today, the ACLU of Ohio announced its participation in a nationwide push to reform the USA PATRIOT Act. The ACLU, along with a growing coalition of both conservative and progressive groups, says that it wants the controversial act to be brought into line with U.S. Constitution.

The USA PATRIOT Act was passed into law in October 2001, only 45 days after the terrorist attacks of September 11. Among other provisions, legislators gave the Executive Branch sweeping new powers to conduct secret searches under a lower standard of due process than was previously required.

Congress included sunset provisions on some of the most controversial measures in the USA PATRIOT Act. Provisions tagged to sunset will expire on December 31, 2005, unless Congress acts to renew them. Congress must review these provisions this summer and come to decisions about how to amend them.

“The USA PATRIOT Act treads on some of our most fundamental freedoms,” ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “At the same time, the act makes us less secure by creating an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in which law enforcement is less effective.”

Ohio is a critical state in the PATRIOT Act debate. As part of the administration’s campaign, President Bush will visit Columbus on Thursday to urge Congress to renew the PATRIOT Act in its entirety. The President has also called for an expansion of the controversial powers already granted by the act. The Judiciary Committees of both chambers of Congress are set to begin debating the act in the next week.

Link said, “Congress should reject the President’s call for wholesale renewal and expansion of the PATRIOT Act. Members of Congress should support amendments that provide checks and balances to the government’s power.”

The nonprofit, nonpartisan ACLU of Ohio is a state affiliate of the national ACLU. Funded entirely through charitable gifts and membership dues, the ACLU defends individual rights through litigation, advocacy, and educational initiatives.