ACLU Comment on Omnibus Funding Bill

Bill Includes Riders That Would Infringe on Civil Liberties, ACLU Says

December 16, 2015 9:30 am

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WASHINGTON — Congress has concluded negotiations on funding the federal government in 2016 with a bill that has several riders that will impede on civil liberties if they are signed in to law, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.

The worst of the riders include increasing government surveillance and revoking visa-waiver travel privileges from people who have recently traveled to, or are dual nationals of, certain predominantly Muslim countries.

“Once again, members of Congress are using the government funding bill to pursue their extremist agendas,” said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the ACLU. “Sneaking damaging and discriminatory riders into a must-pass bill usurps the democratic process and is irresponsible.”

The riders include requiring travelers from the 38 visa waiver program countries to get a visitor visa if they have recently traveled to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan. The provision would also apply to dual citizens of those countries, even if they have never been there – for example, a British citizen with an Iranian father. This would amount to patent discrimination against certain dual nationals of visa waiver program countries. This includes dual nationals born to Iranian, Syrian, Sudanese, or Iraqi fathers, even if they have never set foot inside these countries.

Another rider would expand government surveillance under the guise of protecting cybersecurity. This would allow companies to share large amounts of private consumer information with government agencies, including possibly the FBI and NSA. This information can be used for criminal prosecutions unrelated to cybersecurity, including the targeting of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act.

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