September 24, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org 

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today joined with members of Congress and civil rights groups in welcoming bi-partisan legislation aimed to correct some of the most contentious provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and other controversial measures adopted post 9/11.  At a news conference today, Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Ron Paul (R-TX) unveiled their ""Benjamin Franklin True Patriot Act.""  

""We now know that the PATRIOT Act and other measures went too far, too fast,"" said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director and Chief Legislative Counsel of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.  ""Now we see members from both sides of the aisle are calling for corrections to be made, and this bill stays true to Benjamin Franklin's call for a balance between security and liberty.  We remain committed to ensuring that America remains both safe and free.""

The PATRIOT Act was rushed through Congress in the weeks after 9/11.  Now, two years later, cooler heads are revisiting some of the more controversial provisions of the Act.  The Kucinich-Paul bill would correct some of those measures, including: section 213, which permits the use of ""sneak and peek"" delayed notification search warrants; section 215, which gives law enforcement access to a wide array of personal records, including library, medical and educational records, and section 415, which allows for the indefinite detention of non-citizens certified by the Attorney General as terrorists, and bypasses judicial review.

The bill would also roll back other policies adopted post 9/11, including the ability of the Department of Justice to monitor privileged attorney-client conversations, guidelines permitting FBI agents to monitor houses of worship, legal opinions that would permit local law enforcement to enforce civil immigration law and exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, which allow for companies to keep secret flaws in their infrastructure by sharing that information with the Homeland Security Department.

Introduction of the bill comes on the heels of President Bush's recent call to further expand the powers of law enforcement.  The ACLU has raised serious concerns with these measures, particularly since most are not limited to terrorism related offenses.  Many members of Congress - from both sides of the aisle - have voiced hesitation for any further expansion of powers, and are also revisiting ones already granted.  In July, the House of Representatives adopted a measure, sponsored by Rep. C.L. ""Butch"" Otter (R-ID), which prohibits the implementation of section 213, on a vote of 309 to 118, with 113 Republicans voting in favor.  

Across America, pro-civil liberties resolutions have been passed in 171 communities in 32 states, and the states of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont.  Many of these resolutions call for a restoration of the civil liberties lost since 9/11.  

""These controversial measures addressed by the Kucinich-Paul Bill may not necessarily make us safer, but they definitely make us less free,"" added Nojeim.  ""History has shown the potential for abuse remains too high for Americans to simply 'trust the government.'""

The ACLU's statement can be found at:
 /node/11653

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