ACLU Announces Collaboration With Rep. Bob Barr; Says Conservative Congressman Will Consult on Privacy Issues

November 25, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In a surprise announcement that comes on the heels of news that the outgoing Majority Leader, Richard Armey (R-TX), is considering consulting for the American Civil Liberties Union, the group said today that it also plans to hire conservative firebrand Bob Barr (R-GA) to work on informational and data privacy issues.

“Rep. Barr and the ACLU disagree on many other issues, but we have no doubt that a strange bedfellows collaboration between us will yield great things for informational and data privacy rights,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said that Barr’s agreement to work with the ACLU “demonstrates how deeply concerns about personal privacy cut across partisan lines.” He noted that the ACLU has “no permanent friendsand no permanent enemies, just permanent values.”

“We look forward to working with Congressman Barr in our fight to protect data and information privacy,” Romero said.

The ACLU’s Murphy said that with both Congress and the White House controlled by the Republican Party, the ACLU must be realistic as it seeks to influence policy in Washington. “If we’re going to affect federal policy, we have to have access.”

Murphy said Armey and Barr might not be the last of the high-profile hires, adding that the ACLU has been talking to “soon-to-be ex-senators” from both sides of the aisle. “Stay tuned for Democrats and Republicans,” she said.

Specifically, the ACLU has been in discussion with Congressman Barr about having him come consult for the civil liberties group in its fight against legislation and public policy enacted after September 11 that violates core conceptions of the right to privacy in America.

Barr would primarily work against controversial “sneak and peek” warrants, which bar simultaneous notification of a search to the person whose premises or possessions are being searched, and other informational privacy issues. The USA PATRIOT Act — passed in October of 2001 — facilitated and expanded the use of sneak and peek warrants (also known as “black bag” searches).

The ACLU and Barr found common ground several times during his stint in Congress, including mutual opposition to a national ID, the Justice Department’s Carnivore Internet snooping system, the proposed “Know Your Customer” banking regulation, and the controversial Operation TIPS citizen-spy program. Just recently, Barr was able to persuade the House to pass a bill requiring federal agencies to consider the privacy implications of new regulations.

Last week, outgoing Majority Leader Richard Armey (R-TX) told the Associated Press that he too is considering consulting for the ACLU on information and data privacy issues.

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