FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights organizations today welcomed the introduction in Congress of the "Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004," a bill that would restore basic freedoms and protections that have been compromised since 9/11, without compromising national security.
"Some measures adopted after 9/11 were done in great haste and with little contemplation," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Congress must take this opportunity to help restore the civil liberties that have been unnecessarily lost. We must not allow fear drive us to pursue unneeded policies that abandon our commitment to freedom and liberty."
The Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004 was introduced today by Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russell Feingold (D-WI), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) as well as Representatives Howard Berman (D-CA) and William Delahunt (D-MA).
The restoration act seeks to make modest changes that would restore basic American freedoms. It would amend policies that have shortchanged due process protections; help mend relations with foreign nations whose assistance is vital in securing international assistance to secure our country; restore fairness to the immigration review process, and increase the government's access to information that may be crucial to preventing future terrorist attacks.
The ACLU noted that one group that has been adversely affected since 9/11 - immigrants - would be better protected if the Civil Liberties Restoration Act were enacted. For example, the act would restore many of the due process rights that have been curtailed since 9/11, and allow judges to make fair and individual decisions. The judicial process for immigrants would be under the supervision of an independent immigration court system, and the blanket closure of deportation hearings would be replaced by a case-by-case determination.
The act would also end the National Security Entry-Exit Registration, the controversial immigrant tracking system, which in light of the US-VISIT program, has become redundant. The act would allow immigration and law enforcement to better use their resources to track those that pose a true threat to national security. It would also promote better law enforcement practices by mandating that the National Crime Information Center database - used daily by federal, state and local law enforcement -- complies with minimum accuracy requirements.
The legislation would also allow for information obtained under a foreign intelligence surveillance warrant - and under less strict requirements for cause - and used in criminal procedures, be permitted to be disclosed under the provisions set under the Classified Information Procedures Act. The ACLU noted that this provision ensures that national security is upheld, but prevents law enforcement from using intelligence warrants to circumvent Fourth Amendment protections in criminal cases.
"This bill is a series of modest changes that would help end the assault on the Constitution," said Charlie Mitchell, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "We are joined by a diverse range of groups in calling for its passage. If it is serious about protecting our freedoms, Congress should adopt this sensible measure."