ACLU's Latest Ads Highlight New Law Enforcement Powers To Conduct Secret "Sneak and Peek" Searches of Private Homes

April 15, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Highlighting new federal law enforcement powers to conduct “”sneak and peek”” searches of private homes, the American Civil Liberties Union today launched a new advertisement designed to alert the American public about the sweeping new powers granted the Justice Department in the weeks after September 11th.

“”Many of the powers that the government recently acquired — and many of the ones it still seeks — are not tied solely to anti-terrorism efforts,”” said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “”Enacting policies that allow the government to enter our homes in secret and to collect highly personal information won’t make us safer, but it will make us less free.””

The new ad is part of the ACLU’s “Keep America Safe and Free” coordinated campaign, an initiative aimed at rolling back repressive federal policies implemented since 9-11. Earlier this month, the ACLU began an online advertising campaign that criticized the Transportation Safety Administration’s proposed CAPPS II system, which threatens to create a permanent blacklist of people who will not be able to travel freely.

The new ads — which are running in the Houston Chronicle, Louisville Courier Journal, Milwaukee Journal, Nashville Tennessean, New York Times, Richmond Times, Salt Lake Tribune, Springfield Tribune and Washington Times — highlight concerns about the USA PATRIOT Act, which was adopted by Congress in the days after 9-11, and new even broader legislation called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act reportedly being drafted by the Justice Department.

The advertisement depicts a typical “”sneak and peek”” search by picturing a checklist of the privacy invasions the government made on a “”While You Were Out”” note posted on a front door. Ironically, the one unchecked box is “”Tried To Reach You About All Of This,”” drawing attention to the government’s power to search a person’s home without presenting a warrant in advance. Readers are urged to contact members of Congress to complain about “”sneak and peek”” searches.

The ACLU advertisement says that under the USA PATRIOT Act, the federal government now has the power to conduct “”sneak and peek”” searches, where federal agents can enter homes, conduct searches, download computer contents and Internet viewing histories – often without informing the occupant that such a search was conducted. What’s more, the legislation does not restrict such searches to people who are suspected of being terrorists or even providing assistance to terrorists.

Incredibly, the draft DSEA, often cited as “”PATROIT II,’ seeks to give the government even more power while decreasing the checks on its intrusive powers. For example, PATRIOT II would give the government the power to sample and catalog innocent Americans’ genetic information without a court order and without consent and give the government the power to strip citizenship from people it labels as “”terrorists.”” Consequently, under the government’s new definition of “”terrorists,”” that could include anti-abortionists and the protestors at Vieques Island in Puerto Rico.

Americans of all ideologies are alarmed by the intrusive proposals coming from the Justice Department. The American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Eagle Forum and other conservative organizations have echoed the ACLU’s concern that the government has been already been given too many powers under the original USA PATRIOT Act. They are urging members of Congress to protect America’s freedom by opposing the passage of PATRIOT II.

The new ad can be viewed at:

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