ACLU Urges Senate Judiciary Committee to Probe Department of Homeland Security

April 2, 2008 12:00 am

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Today, as Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee for an annual oversight hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union calls on the committee to demand he answer tough questions about DHS’s most troubling initiatives. The ACLU submitted a statement for the record detailing concerns the organization has with some of the department’s activities, namely recent policies regarding immigration raids, deaths in immigration detention facilities, Real ID, Total Information Awareness and fusion centers.

“The Department of Homeland Security, under the direction of Secretary Chertoff, has established itself as an agency that will ignore and, if needed, trample the privacy and liberty of American citizens under the façade of national security,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “DHS has overseen severe violations of individual rights, such as entering homes without warrants and implementing surveillance programs that target innocent Americans. Secretary Chertoff should fully disclose his agencies violations of our civil liberties and begin an open and frank dialogue with the American people about what he is going to do to fix it.”

Secretary Chertoff testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month, where similar questions were asked of him. He disclosed little, making today’s hearing crucial for Congress and the American people the department is tasked with protecting.

“DHS has begun a downward spiral that continues to strip away individual privacy and rights, as well as trample the sovereignty of the states,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani. “Real ID is a prime example, where DHS is attempting to force on the states a national ID scheme. The federal government has more than proven that it should not be in the business of storing Americans personal information, and Real ID will create a one-stop shop for identity thieves.”

“Secretary Chertoff has been at the helm of DHS when severe breaches of individual rights have occurred around the department’s immigration practices,” added Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel.People have died while being detained by DHS. Americans’ homes have been invaded by armed ICE agents and citizens, including young children, taken into custody during ICE raids. There have been cases of citizens who were detained or deported by DHS. Secretary Chertoff needs to explain ICE’s conduct to the Senate and the American people.”

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