ACLU Disappointed with House Passage of So-Called 'Intelligence Reform' Bill; Measure Expands Patriot Act, Appeases Anti-Immigrant Lobby

October 8, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed disappointment with the passage of legislation in the House of Representatives to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The measure was adopted after the House failed to strip many unwarranted provisions from the legislation.

“The 9/11 Commission asked, and the Senate delivered,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Instead of sticking to what the Commission asked for, Republican House leaders listened more to the anti-immigrant, anti-privacy groups to push their own political agenda. This legislation is not what the Commissioners asked for and today freedom and privacy lost.”

“Privacy was once a core value for libertarian conservatives in Congress,” Murphy added. “Sadly, this bill turned a deaf ear to those traditional libertarian conservative values. When push came to shove, a commitment to privacy and freedom was overrun by pressure from party leaders.”

The House voted on the “9/11 Commission Implementation Act” (H.R. 10), a bill drafted by the Republican House leadership with little consultation with Democrats. The bill differs greatly from its Senate counterpart – the bi-partisan Collins-Lieberman was adopted earlier this week on a near-unanimous vote. The ACLU noted that several commissioners and the Family Steering Committee of 9-11 victims had recently raised serious concerns about many of the superfluous law enforcement and immigration provisions in the House bill.

The House adopted the bill on a vote of 282 to 134. Late last night, the House rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would have removed many of the uncalled-for provisions of the House bill, on a vote of 213 to 203.

A so-called “compromise” on the torture provisions offered by Rep. Hostettler (R-ID) would authorize indefinite, and potentially lifelong, detention not just of terror suspects who might be tortured by any “specially dangerous” non-citizen. Furthermore, the amendment still allows people to be sent back to countries that will torture them, so long as the Secretary of State obtains meaningless “diplomatic assurances” from such countries. Such assurances, the ACLU pointed out, have been made in several cases and yet there is credible evidence that detainees were tortured anyway.

Also, the bill includes extraneous anti-immigrant court-stripping provisions that seriously weaken the judicial review process for immigrants This provision explicitly forbids, in some cases, access to the constitutionally mandated “Great Writ” of habeas corpus, creating the illusion of judicial oversight of immigration matters in many cases.

The ACLU noted that many of these anti-immigrant policies have long been priorities for the hard-line anti-immigration lobby. Another provision of the bill would lay the foundation for a National ID card.

Although the underlying measure raises serious civil liberties and privacy concerns, the ACLU expressed its alarm with multiple amendments, many of which – such as amendments to create 23 new federal death penalties and to amend the deportation provisions of the Patriot Act – were adopted and only additionally detract from the findings of the 9/11 Commission and expand Patriot Act powers and further scapegoat immigrants.

“In their attempt to appease the anti-immigrant lobby, House leaders failed the 9/11 Commission, and ultimately, the American people,” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The Commission did not ask for immigrants to be scapegoats or the Patriot Act to be expanded.”

For more on the ACLU’s concerns with Congress’s implementation of the 9/11 Commission’s findings, go to: /intelligencereform

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