ACLU Asks Senate to Preserve Civil Liberties While Preventing Terrorism

June 15, 2000 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEThursday, June 15, 2000
WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate to reject several controversial recommendations in the National Commission on Terrorism’s recent report, including putting the Pentagon in charge when there is a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

“This report is a virtual smorgasbord of civil liberties violations,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory T. Nojeim, who pointed to a broad range of red flags raised by the Commission’s report.

“Soldiers are trained to kill, not to protect people’s constitutional and civil rights,” Nojeim said. “Just a few years ago, the U.S. sent troops to Haiti for the express purpose of putting their military out of the business of law enforcement. Congress should reject this attempt to put military units on our city streets.”

Since shortly after the Civil War, a federal law known as the Posse Comitatus Act has barred military involvement in civilian law enforcement. The Commission’s proposal would require Congress to create a new exception to the Act. The ACLU also called into question several other recommendations.

“The Commission’s recommendation that the FBI be permitted to secretly wiretap and monitor someone’s innocent conversations solely because he or she is a member of designated group poses a dangerous threat to our First Amendment right to freedom of association,” Nojeim said.

Among the Commission’s other troublesome recommendations were:

  • Loosening guidelines intended to protect civil liberties when the FBI conducts counter-terrorism investigations.
  • Easing controls against recruiting foreign terrorists and human rights abusers — including those who have targeted Americans — as CIA informants.
  • Treating all foreign students as if each is a potential terrorist whose studies and movements must be monitored.
  • In a surprise move likely to buttress bipartisan reform legislation pending in Congress, the Commission rejected the current use of secret evidence to indefinitely imprison foreign residents. “Even the National Commission on Terrorism rejected the government’s method of using of secret evidence in immigration proceedings — an unexpected silver lining to an otherwise ominous cloud,” Nojeim said.

    The recommendation stopped short of prohibiting secret evidence, instead suggesting that attorneys with security clearance be allowed access to evidence unavailable to their clients.

    By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

    The Latest in National Security

    ACLU's Vision

    The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

    Learn More About National Security

    National Security issue image

    The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.