ACLU Condemns Hidden Provision that Would Impede Freedom of Speech; Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill Would Empower Secret Service as Censors

December 12, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today denounced a provision contained within legislation created to reauthorize the Patriot Act that would make major changes to the criminal statutes administered by the Secret Service and could seriously damage the free speech rights of all Americans. The controversial provision has not had any Congressional review or hearings.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“If this provision is adopted, our precious First Amendment would be significantly curtailed. The Secret Service already has broad authority to stifle dissent at events where high-ranking public officials appear. This little-noticed provision, contained in legislation meant to reauthorize the Patriot Act, would give the Secret Service effective power to enact ‘exclusion zones’ even without the attendance of the president or other Secret Service protectee.

“Imagine, in the future, a pro-choice president is set to speak at a conference, which the Secret Service declares as an ‘event of national significance.’ If the bill passes, the Secret Service could shut down areas throughout the conference and arrest any pro-life protester who violates the zone for a felony. This could happen even at times when the president is not speaking.

“Congress has not had ample time to consider this attack on the First Amendment. While there remains much to do on the Patriot Act powers themselves, lawmakers must reject this assault on the right to dissent.”

To read the ACLU’s letter to the Senate on this provision, go to:

To read the ACLU’s letter to the House on this provision, go to:

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with the Patriot Act, go to:

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