April 21, 2005

TO:
  Members of the U.S. Senate
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  Support and Cosponsor S. 737, the SAFE Act

The League of Women Voters believes that basic civil liberties must be preserved and protected as the nation seeks to guard against terrorism and other threats to national security. We therefore ask that you support and cosponsor
S. 737, the SAFE Act (Security and Freedom Enhancement Act of 2005).

For the past 85 years, members of the League have been steadfast in their conviction that the need to protect against security threats to America must be balanced with the need to preserve the very liberties that are the foundation of this country. There are fundamental principles that guard our liberty -- from independent judicial review of law enforcement actions to prohibitions on indiscriminate searches -- that must be preserved.

Today, League members are concerned about the impact of the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in October 2001. We believe that the SAFE Act would address some of the most problematic provisions of the USA Patriot Act. It would limit so-called “sneak and peek” searches, which allow secret warrants, to specific instances where there is a risk of flight or danger to life or physical safety.

The SAFE Act would also increase reporting on the use of “sneak and peek” and require increased public recording of the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, thereby allowing for more meaningful oversight. It would limit law enforcement requests for business records by requiring evidence that the records relate to a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power, and are not merely part of a “fishing expedition.” In sum, we believe that the SAFE Act would provide reasonable checks on some of the most extreme sections of the USA Patriot Act.

These are challenging times for all Americans. We recognize that there are real and serious terrorist threats. The League believes that the SAFE Act would preserve authority for law enforcement officials to combat terrorism. At the same time, it would protect innocent Americans from unrestricted government surveillance. The League of Women Voters urges you to sponsor and support S. 737.