ACLU Calls on State Attorney General To Protect Californians' Right to Privacy

July 2, 2002 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO – – In an open letter sent today to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union urged Lockyer to take “”immediate steps to ensure that intelligence-gathering practices carried out by law enforcement officers fully respect Californians’ constitutional right to privacy.””

“”As we celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the state’s constitutional right to privacy, it is important we remember why it was created,”” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “”It was created to protect Californians from the kinds of law enforcement abuses that occurred in the 1960s. That is why, as federal and state law enforcement agencies launch their anti-terrorism investigations, we urge Lockyer to uphold Californians’ constitutional right to privacy.””

The letter comes in response to United States Attorney General John Ashcroft’s May 30 announcement that FBI guidelines designed decades ago to prevent abusive and inappropriate intelligence-gathering practices were being significantly loosened. In its letter, the ACLU said that some of the practices now permitted under Ashcroft’s new federal guidelines violate the right-to-privacy clause inserted by California voters into the state constitution in 1972.

“”In short, California has drawn a line with respect to privacy, political and associational rights that government must not cross even with the best of intentions,”” the ACLU letter said. “”Yet, some of the intelligence practices now openly encouraged by the new federal guidelines cross that long-standing state line.””

The federal government’s greatly expanded intelligence operations include Joint Terrorism Task Forces throughout California that will have state and local officers working closely with the FBI. The letter makes clear that officers working with the FBI on these joint operations, “”deserve immediate warning that state law — not Attorney General Ashcroft — defines what conduct is permissible within California.””

The executive directors of the ACLU of Northern California, Southern California and San Diego signed the letter. The three ACLU affiliates represent 50,000 members statewide. The ACLU letter is online at /Privacy/Privacy.cfm?ID=10506&c=130

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