ACLU Analyzes Civil Liberties in 9/11 Commission Report

August 3, 2004 12:00 am

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Blasts Intelligence Czar Idea, Praised Attention to Freedoms Elsewhere


WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today released a detailed analysis of recommendations and findings in the 9/11 Commission report relevant to civil liberties. The ACLU compared the commission’s report to the Patriot Act, calling much of it innocuous or even desirable, but taking issue with certain sections.

“If we’ve learned anything from the Patriot Act, it’s that reform needs to follow the Constitution to keep America strong,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director, who spoke about the analysis to reporters and editorial writers in two conference calls today. “We need to make sure that happens with the 9/11 report, which should be commended for its attention to personal freedoms but should not be adopted blindly.”

In particular, the ACLU took strong exception to the report’s vision for intelligence reform, the centerpiece of which is a proposal to vest managerial control over the intelligence community in one White House “czar.” The ACLU is concerned that such proximity to the president would result in the same politicization of intelligence that led to failures prior to 9/11.

The ACLU also expressed concern that having one person in charge of both domestic and foreign intelligence gathering could result in the greater use of espionage tradecraft against American citizens on American soil, which is inherently antithetical to the Constitution.

Despite its objections to the proposed national intelligence director position, the ACLU did point favorably to comments on the Patriot Act. In particular, the ACLU strongly commended one of the report’s findings.

“Recommendation: The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental power should be on the executive, to explain (a) that the power actually materially enhances security and (b) that there is adequate supervision of the executive’s use of the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties,” the report says on page 395. “If the power is granted, there must be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use.”

Given the lack of compelling evidence that the parts of the Patriot Act which diminish judicial review and other checks and balances on federal authority have been essential in fighting terrorism, the ACLU said that this recommendation bolsters the case for renewed Congressional scrutiny of the 2001 counter-terrorism law.

“Regarding civil liberties, the 9/11 Commission report essentially says that the Justice Department and White House have not made a compelling case for either the administration’s obsession with secrecy or the Patriot Act,” Romero said. “This bipartisan report should serve as a wake-up call for Congress that it must maintain the sunsets in the Patriot Act.”

The analysis is online at: /node/23025

An ACLU memo specifically addressing the Commission’s recommendations for intelligence reform is online at: /NationalSecurity/NationalSecurity.cfm?ID=16181&c=24

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