Congressional Report Cites Law Enforcement and Intelligence Lapses; ACLU Says 9/11 Failures Result of Mistakes, Not Insufficient Powers

July 24, 2003 12:00 am


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WASHINGTON – Saying that it proved that the government’s failure to detect the terrorist activities that led to the 9/11 attacks was not a result of insufficient surveillance powers, the American Civil Liberties Union said a new congressional report demonstrates that the government does not need additional new law enforcement powers.

“”Attorney General Ashcroft has insisted that the government needed new powers to fight the war on terror,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “”The report shows that these new powers were not needed and that instead the government must effectively use those already at its disposal. Congress should learn from its own report and resist additional attempts to trade individual liberties for new law enforcement powers.””

The public release of the report, prepared by the joint House and Senate Intelligence committees, coincides with growing concerns about the over-broadness of some measures adopted after 9/11. Earlier this week, on a broadly bipartisan vote of 309 to 118, the House of Representatives voted to prohibit the use of so-called “”sneak and peek”” warrants authorized by the PATRIOT Act. This is the first explicit move by Congress to restore American freedoms and liberties that have been curtailed after 9/11.

The House also rejected a measure that would have withheld federal funds from state and local law enforcement agencies that refused to comply with federal inquiries on the citizenship or immigration status of individuals. The House rejected the move on a 122-305 vote, with 107 Republicans voting against the proposal.

Outside the halls of Congress, there are efforts at the grassroots level, in communities all across America, to speak out against the intrusiveness of the PATRIOT Act and other measures. To date, at least 142 communities and three states have passed pro-freedom resolutions, affirming a commitment to individual liberty and privacy.

“”Attorney General Ashcroft confirmed earlier this year that the Administration wants to yet again expand its arsenal of powers – a so-called ‘PATRIOT II,'”” said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “”Congress must resist attempts to pass it – either independently or piecemeal — and must continue to protect and restore civil liberties. As today’s congressional report and other recent events demonstrate, measures that restrict our freedom or diminish our privacy do little to make us safer – but they most certainly make us less free.””

The new congressional report includes several instances where the FBI received credible tips about potential terrorists, but failed to properly investigate them. More generally, the report shows that law enforcement and intelligence agencies failed to properly assess the terrorist threat and that no federal agency had sufficient intelligence to have advance, specific warnings of the attacks.

For more on this issue, go to:
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The report can be viewed at:
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/pdf/fullreport_errata.pdf

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