ACLU Welcomes Senate Measure to Restore Civil Liberties Lost Post 9/11

August 1, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union joined with organizations from across the political spectrum in welcoming the introduction last night of a bipartisan bill aimed at correcting some of the most troubling provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. The “”Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act,”” introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would restore many of the civil liberties lost in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

“”Increasing numbers of Americans – liberals, conservatives, and independents alike – are beginning to recognize that the PATRIOT Act went too far,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “”By adopting this bipartisan bill, Congress can demonstrate that we can be both safe and free.””

Introduction of the measure follows recent votes in Congress to restore liberties curtailed after 9/11. The House limited the ability of the Defense Department to engage in data-mining schemes targeting Americans, and the Senate adopted measures prohibiting that activity. The House also recently voted overwhelmingly to adopt a measure prohibiting law enforcement from initiating so-called “”sneak and peek”” warrants that violate privacy under diminished judicial standards.

The Murkowski-Wyden bill, if enacted, would help ameliorate many of the most controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and write into law protective standards for some measures adopted by the Bush Administration without Congressional approval.

Specifically, the Murkowski-Wyden bill would: protect First Amendment activities of political protestors by redefining domestic terrorism; correct section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act by providing greater judicial oversight and requiring a higher standard of proof before allowing access to highly private and sensitive data, including, library, bookstore and medical records; ban federal agencies from engaging in “”data-mining”” without explicit Congressional authorization, and strengthen protections against government abuse by requiring that foreign intelligence warrants be issued only if the “”primary purpose”” of the warrant is for the gathering of foreign intelligence information.

“”The Murkowski-Wyden bill is a reasonable compromise that protects our civil liberties,”” the ACLU’s Murphy said. “”We do not need to trample on privacy or civil rights to protect our national security.””

The bill’s introduction also follows the filing of the first-ever lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the PATRIOT Act. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on Wednesday on behalf of six advocacy and community groups from across the country whose members and clients believe they are currently the targets of investigations because of their ethnicity, religion and political associations. The challenge targets Section 215 of the law, which vastly expands the power of FBI agents to secretly obtain records and personal belongings of innocent people in the United States, including citizens and permanent residents

For more on the ACLU’s campaign to keep America Safe and Free, go to:
www.aclu.org/safeandfree

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