California ACLU and Library Association Launch Campaign to Take Action Against the Patriot Act and Restore Constitutional Rights

January 22, 2004 12:00 am

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Groups Urge Congress to Reject Bush Call to Make Patriot Act Permanent and Call for Support of the SAFE Act

View new advertisement and the text of the Safe Act here: http://aclunc.org/911/040122-safeact.html

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SAN FRANCISCO – The American Civil Liberties Union’s California affiliates and the California Library Association today called upon voters to urge their representatives to support legislation that would roll back some of the USA Patriot Act’s most dangerous provisions, including the government’s ability to indiscriminately search individual’s library records, Internet activity and bookstore purchases.

“Several of the provisions in the Patriot Act go too far and increase the chances that innocent Americans will be swept into terrorism investigations by removing traditional checks and balances on law enforcement and oversight powers from the judiciary,” said Dorothy Ehrlich, Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “”That is why we are launching this campaign today, to bring the Patriot Act back in line with the Constitution by urging our representatives to endorse the SAFE Act.””

Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the SAFE Act late last year, and Representative Butch Otter (R-ID) introduced a companion bill in the house. The bill would amend the Patriot Act to place reasonable limitations on the use of surveillance and the issuance of search warrants.

As part of the campaign, this week the groups will begin running full-page advertisements in 12 alternative newspapers throughout California with a combined circulation of more then one million.

The headline in the ad reads:””Don’t you hate it when someone reads over your shoulder? Especially when that someone is the Justice Department”” and calls upon individuals to contact their representatives and urge them to support the SAFE Act. To date, Northern California representatives Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee, and Pete Stark are co-sponsors of the bill.

“”In the State of the Union, President Bush called on Congress to make permanent some of the worst provisions in the Patriot Act,”” said Bob Kearney, Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “”We are calling on the Northern California delegation to lead Congress in the opposite direction. We must pass the SAFE Act.”

The SAFE Act, if passed, would do the following:

  • Limit the government’s ability to conduct widespread searches of an individual’s records, without probable cause or individualized suspicion;
  • Limit the government’s use of “”sneak and peek searches”” and require notification within seven days (currently notification can be delayed indefinitely);
  • Make sure that intelligence agents cannot search library records unless there is suspicion that an individual is involved with a foreign power.

“”Your public library should be a ‘safe’ haven where you can be assured that, whatever magazine you read, web site you visit or book you check out, that information will be kept private,”” said Susan Hildreth, CLA President. “”We support the SAFE Act so that libraries can continue to remain institutions of free expression and exploration of ideas. We are proud that the California Library Association and the ACLU have forged this partnership to restore our precious constitutional rights.””

Chair of the CLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, Karen Schneider added: “”The Patriot Act is a clear and present danger to our civil liberties, and an assault on free speech in an open society. This is an important time for advocates of free speech everywhere to join forces to defend our Constitutional rights.””

The Patriot Act was rushed through Congress just 45 days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Just yesterday, Los Angeles became the largest locality to join over 230 governing bodies — including the state legislatures of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont — to pass resolutions opposing provisions of the Patriot Act. In Northern California alone, resolutions were passed in 47 communities, including San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento.

“”As we strive to protect our country, we must remember to uphold the very freedoms we seek to protect,” Ehrlich said. “In the aftermath of 9/11 many liberties were curtailed, but now, millions of Americans are demanding that freedom be restored to keep America both safe and free.””

Through a website www.aclunc.org/freedom the ACLU and CLA are urging individuals to send letters to their U.S. Senators and Representatives urging them to support the Safe Act. Both the ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU of Southern California along with the California Library Association are launching the campaign.

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