ACLU Washington Director Asks Democratic Committee To Include Strong Stand for Civil Liberties in Party Platform

June 19, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Democratic Party Platform Committee to include strong language in its 2004 platform to protect and promote civil liberties.

“”We live in an age where an understandable fear of terrorism threatens our basic freedoms to a point rarely seen in our history,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

“”The time to take a stand is now, and the Democratic Party should take that stand with us,”” Murphy said in testimony before the Democratic Platform Committee. “”We must not allow fear to undermine our freedoms – we can be both safe and free.””

The ACLU emphasized that it is non-partisan and does not endorse or oppose political parties or candidates. It has also asked to testify before the Republican Party platform committee, but has received no response to date.

In her testimony, Murphy largely focused on the ACLU’s concerns over the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policies since 9/11. Prominent in her testimony is discussion of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorism legislation that was rushed through Congress just 45 days after 9/11. Murphy urged the party to adopt a plank in defense of the “”sunset”” provisions in the law, which will force Congress to reconsider several of the Patriot Act’s most contentious provisions before the end of 2005.

The ACLU also asked the platform committee to support legislation to narrow about a dozen of the law’s provisions that remove checks and balances from government search and surveillance authority. The measure recommended by the ACLU is the bi-partisan Security and Freedom Ensured (or SAFE) Act pending in both chambers of Congress.

Murphy also encouraged the committee to adopt a plank opposing any detention of Americans outside the reach of the American courts and Constitution. Currently, “”enemy combatants”” – so designated by the President without Congressional authorization – are effectively devoid of all rights, even those accorded to military prisoners of war.

Another issue Murphy addressed was the newfound “”mania”” in Congress for constitutional amendments that would restrict Americans’ individual rights. This session of Congress alone has seen measures seriously considered that would undercut the right to due process and a fair trial (the Victims’ Rights Amendment), free speech and expression (the flag “”desecration”” amendment) and equal rights under the law (the Federal Marriage Amendment). Murphy pressed the committee to affirm that the Constitution should never be amended to restrict rights.

“”Civil liberties affect all of us regardless of party affiliation or personal ideology – indeed they allow us to support or oppose a party or ideology,”” Murphy said. “”Both parties should affirm these general principles.””

To read Laura Murphy’s testimony before the Democratic Party Platform Committee, go to:

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