ACLU Says Lawmakers Must Listen to 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Families; Final Measure Must Not Include Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Privacy Provisions

October 20, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called upon key lawmakers to listen to the 9/11 Commission and exclude extraneous anti-immigration and law enforcement provisions as the conference committee to reconcile the differences of the House and Senate intelligence reform bills met.

Following hours of speeches highlighting the importance of bipartisanship, the chairman of the conference committee, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) announced that the Republican House Leadership would draft a bill to be considered by the conferees. That proposal was quickly denounced by lawmakers from both chambers, and it was agreed that Hoekstra, Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) would draft the initial bill.

“The House Republicans once again sought to put politics over principle,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “They started off by saying they wanted a bipartisan bill, but then attempted to push their own agenda. If not for the fair-minded lawmakers who raised serious objections, the American people could have been left behind. Now it is up to all the conferees to act – cautiously and carefully.”

“Whatever form this bill takes, it should adhere to the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission,” Murphy added. “This conference is not the place to have the debate on the Patriot Act expansion and anti-immigrant provisions of the House bill, especially with a national election just 13 days away.”

In a letter sent to conferees by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the chair and vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, they stated that “we believe strongly that this bill is not the right occasion for tackling controversial immigration and law enforcement issues that go well beyond the Commission’s recommendations.”

This was a sentiment echoed by several members of families of 9/11 victims in a press conference held before the conference committee met.

The various measures have prompted opposition from advocacy groups including the ACLU, Gun Owners of America, the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the conservative Cuban American National Foundation. The ACLU and the CANF sent a letter to the conferees today, asking them to remove the anti-immigrant provisions.

“It is ironic that the party of limited government would use the restructuring of our intelligence community as stealth cover to expand law enforcement powers and assault immigrants,” Murphy said. “Worse still, if House leaders have their way, important protections for civil liberties would be undermined.”

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

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