ACLU Opposes 'Intelligence Reform' Bill; Measure Fails to Safeguard Privacy, Freedom

December 6, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In a letter sent to all members of Congress, the American Civil Liberties Union today said that it is opposing the final intelligence reform bill that is likely to be considered this week because its provisions would unnecessarily undermine the nation’s civil liberties.

“In its attempt to reform our intelligence systems by an artificial deadline, Congress appears willing to accept legislation that will diminish our freedom and privacy,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “While Sens. Collins and Lieberman and Reps. Hoekstra and Harman should be commended for their hard work, their final measure unfortunately includes provisions that would undermine our civil liberties.”

The bill would centralize the intelligence community’s surveillance powers, increasing the likelihood for government abuses, the ACLU said, without creating sufficient corresponding safeguards.

In letters sent to the House and Senate today, the ACLU said that the legislation contains provisions that would:

  • Unnecessarily expand wiretapping to erase a key constitutional safeguard and expand the “guilt by association” material support law, including making mere membership in a designated terrorist organization a criminal offense for the first time. The 9/11 Commission did not call for any of these provisions in its report.
  • Create a weakened civil liberties board that risks becoming the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. The board would be appointed by the President, serve at his pleasure, and have no subpoena power.
  • Standardize drivers’ licenses and state identification cards, creating a de facto national ID. This cosmetic “quick fix” would not effectively deter terrorists, the ACLU said, but would threaten our freedom and our right to privacy by making it easier for the federal government to constantly track our movements.

The ACLU did, however, applaud the conference committee for resisting attempts by a few hard-line Members of Congress to insert assaults on immigrants’ rights and grant law enforcement sweeping new powers.

“While the bill could have been much worse, Congress should not pass a bad bill simply because it is there,” said Timothy H. Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Politics – not policy – has been the main driving force behind this bill. Politics should not be allowed to determine the shape of our national intelligence systems.”

To read the ACLU’s letter go to:

To read more about the ACLU’s concerns with the intelligence reform legislation, go to:

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