ACLU Calls for Protection of Privacy and Freedom As Congress Continues Examination of 9/11 Commission Recommendations

August 16, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged caution as three key Senate committees convened special recess hearings to examine some of the 9/11 Commission findings. At issue are proposals that, if enacted, would have a long lasting negative impact on the privacy and freedoms of future generations of Americans.

“Let us not repeat the mistakes of the Patriot Act and pass legislation now that will mean a loss of freedom for years to come,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Congress is heading in the right direction by holding these hearings, but the ultimate goal must always be to enact measures that both bolster security and protect our civil liberties. We can, and must, be safe and free.”

The 9/11 Commission report has sparked a rare series of Congressional hearings during the summer recess. Today, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Government Affairs Committee and Armed Services Committee held hearings to examine some of the recommendations and findings.

One major point of contention is the recommendation that might require a federal mandate dictating standards for drivers’ licenses. The ACLU has objected to such a scheme as a bureaucratic back door attempt to create a national ID card system and a serious threat to privacy, liberty and safety. Such cards would provide a new tool for racial, religious or ethnic profiling and would lead to far more illegal discrimination. Failure to carry one’s identification would become an extra pretext for the unwarranted search, detention and arrest of minority citizens and non-citizens.

The ACLU also cautioned that anti-immigration groups may seize on the recommendation to further their agenda of forcing states to link drivers licenses to immigration status, making motor vehicles bureaus into immigration agents – without additional funds or adequate training. There is also the exponentially greater threat of having damaging private information fall into the wrong hands when data is consolidated into one giant, complex data repository.

“A growing surveillance society would only be compounded by a national ID – placing our most sensitive information into one giant clearinghouse with its contents accessible to a disgruntled employee or open to accidental keystrokes,” said Marvin Johnson, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “As anyone who’s ever tried to fix their credit report knows, these databases are difficult to correct and have a far reaching impact in our daily lives.”

The ACLU also raised issue with the proposed National Intelligence Director, which would centralize power over both foreign and domestic intelligence collection agencies in the White House. The NID would consolidate authority over the 15 agencies that make up the intelligence community into a person serving at the pleasure of the president – raising the potential for politics, and not security, to guide American intelligence programs.

“Watergate and Filegate highlight the dangers of having politics guide our intelligence programs,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Domestic surveillance operations must be overseen by a ‘top cop,’ and not a ‘top spy;’ a sentiment that is shared by many former intelligence and law enforcement officials.”

The ACLU’s analysis of the 9-11 Commission’s Recommendations can be found at:

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