ACLU's Top Lobbyist Urges Privacy Board To Act to Protect Civil Liberties

December 5, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union’s top lobbyist, Caroline Fredrickson, appeared today at the first public hearing of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to urge the board to conduct aggressive investigation and oversight over the administration’s dismantling of the civil liberties of all Americans.

“This hearing is a welcome but long overdue first step to air just some of the civil liberties transgressions of this administration,” said Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Our democracy is at risk when the unprecedented threats to privacy and civil liberties undertaken in the name of the war on terror go unanswered and unchecked. We ask today: when did the American people become the enemy?”

Specifically, Fredrickson raised concerns about several issues the board has ignored since its creation, including the warrantless wiretapping of Americans and data mining of call information. Fredrickson also said the board should examine the ongoing practices of torture, kidnapping and detention by the government, the growth of a “surveillance society” in America, and the lack of transparency and sunshine in the government. As well, she said the board should speak out against the use of flawed no fly lists; and raised civil liberties concerns with the Patriot Act and the Real ID Act.

The board was created on December 17, 2004, when President Bush signed into law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. However, since its creation, the administration has done little to actually implement the launch of the board, with members not appointed until June 10, 2005. The ACLU noted that the White House also failed to include specific funding for the board in its budget for 2007.

The ACLU has been critical of the board because its members are appointed by the incumbent president and serve at the president’s pleasure and because its powers to obtain documents and testimony are subject to a veto by the attorney general.

“As it stands, this board lacks both bark and bite,” added Fredrickson. “History has shown that a nation that compromises freedom unnecessarily only comes to regret it. And history will show this administration is on the wrong side of civil liberties. America has been kept in the dark, and we urge this panel to bring some sunshine to the government’s abuses.”

Fredrickson’s full statement before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/27606leg20061205.html

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