ACLU of Northern California Launches Campaign To Stop "Patriot Act II" - "A Sequel Worse Than the Original"

May 30, 2003 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO — In a full page advertisement in today’s New York Times, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California labeled proposed Justice Department legislation that further threatens our core civil liberties and rights a sequel “even worse than the original.”

The “Domestic Security Enhancement Act,” dubbed Patriot Act II, would grant the government an array of new powers, including the ability to make secret arrests, place unrestricted wiretaps, and create DNA databases on ordinary Americans, the ACLU said.

“Before Patriot Act II is even considered, we need to find out how the first Patriot Act is being used to violate our Constitutional rights,” said Bob Kearney, Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “We call on Congress to assert strong checks on law enforcement and pierce the wall of secrecy surrounding the government’s use of these new powers.”

The ACLU campaign is calling on Congress to investigate and oversee ways in which the Bush Administration has already used or misused the new powers granted under the original Patriot Act.

“Patriot Act II: Like most sequels, this one’s even worse than the original,” the advertisement reads. The advertisement includes a website address, www.aclucalifornia.org where the ACLU is urging individuals to send letters to their U.S. Senators and Representatives calling upon them to oppose Patriot Act II. In addition, the Patriot Act II ad will also run in local newspapers throughout northern California.

The original USA Patriot Act was rushed through Congress in just 45 days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It gave the government sweeping new powers to place wiretaps, secretly search homes and offices, and compile personal data about average Americans.

Patriot Act II proposes to expand those powers to include allowing the government to secretly access credit reports and library records without a warrant, and to catalogue genetic information about innocent Americans without court orders or consent. It would repeal local court orders that prevent police from spying on religious and political organizations. Its overbroad definition of terrorism even puts some American protesters engaged in First Amendment activity at risk of having their U.S. citizenship stripped.

In response to the draft legislation that was leaked to reporters last February, 70 organizations from across the political spectrum sent a letter urging Congress to oppose Patriot Act II. In the March 17 letter, they wrote: “The draft bill contains a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers, many of which are not related to terrorism, that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights, as well as disturb our unique system of checks and balances.” The letter was signed by a wide range of groups including the American Conservative Union, Gun Owners of America, American Baptist Churches USA, and People for the American Way.

Conservative columnist and former Nixon speechwriter William Safire called Patriot Act II “an abomination” while Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York said it amounted to “little more than the institution of a police state.”

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