Bush Signs Sweeping Law Enforcement Bill

October 26, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU Pledges to Monitor Impact on Civil Liberties,
Continue to Work with Administration Officials


WASHINGTON — As President Bush today signed the new sweeping law enforcement legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union pledged anew to work with the Bush Administration and law enforcement agencies to ensure that civil liberties in America are not eroded by the newly approved USA Patriot Act.

“The passage of this broad legislation is by no means the end of the story,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “We will now work with ACLU affiliates around the country to monitor its implementation. The ACLU remains firm in our belief that we can be both safe and free.”

This afternoon, in fact, ACLU officials are scheduled to meet with FBI Director Robert Mueller, the second meeting in what the ACLU hopes will be a continuing dialogue with the nation’s top law enforcement authorities. In addition to Mueller, ACLU representatives have met in recent weeks with high-level representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and numerous Congressional leaders as the nation has grappled with the aftermath of the tragic terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the new wave of anthrax poisonings.

The ACLU said that it would soon request meetings with James Ziglar, Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization Service, Gov. Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, and other key administration officials, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to express its continuing concerns about the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation, the secrecy surrounding the detainees and other government actions.

“We cannot as a nation allow very legitimate public anxiety to immunize the Administration and Congress from their obligation to protect the Bill of Rights and the fundamental values that document embodies,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office.

Congress adopted the bill signed into law today in near record time with only one public hearing and little debate. In fact, under intense pressure from Attorney General John Ashcroft, Republican leaders in the House torpedoed compromise legislation adopted unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee in a late-night deal with the Justice Department.

“These new and unchecked powers,” said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU’s Washington Office, “could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General.”

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