ACLU Deeply Disappointed With Passage of Anti-Terrorism Bill; Decries Deeply Flawed Legislative Process

October 24, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the 66 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the final version of anti-terrorism legislation, saying that they acted bravely to preserve civil liberties in America in the face of enormous pressure from the Bush Administration.

“This legislation is based on the faulty assumption that safety must come at the expense of civil liberties,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “We can be safe and fight terrorism without substantially surrendering our civil liberties.”

In a letter to the full House, which adopted the legislation by a vote of 357 to 66, Murphy said the USA Patriot Act (HR 3162) would give enormous, unwarranted power to the executive branch unchecked by meaningful judicial review. Most of the new powers, the ACLU said, could be used against American citizens in routine criminal investigations completely unrelated to terrorism.

“These new and unchecked powers could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office.

With House offices closed and staff unable to access their papers, Murphy said that the process that brought the final version of the bill to the floor is deeply flawed and an offense to the thoughtful legislative process necessary to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“In past times of tragedy and fear, our government has harassed, investigated and arrested people solely because of their race, religion, national origin, speech or political beliefs,” the ACLU said. “We must not allow that to happen again even as we work together to protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks.”

The ACLU letter to the House can be found at:
/node/20976

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