FBI Director Set to Speak at First-Ever ACLU Member Conference

June 13, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In an event showcasing the increasing intensity of civil liberties concerns in a post-9/11 America, Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will deliver a speech this afternoon to hundreds of “”card-carrying”” members of the American Civil Liberties Union, who have traveled to Washington for the ACLU’s first-ever membership conference.

“”That Director Mueller, a public figure often at odds with the ACLU and its supporters, accepted our invitation is testament to just how significant civil liberties concerns are to the American people in the aftermath of 9/11,”” said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “”We hope that the Director will be receptive to our message: that safety and individual liberty need not be mutually exclusive as we confront the threat of terrorism.””

Director Mueller will give his speech today at the Omni Shoreham Hotel here, and is expected to take questions from ACLU members. The ACLU conference, which has drawn more than 1,200 members to the nation’s capital, started this past Wednesday and will last until Sunday.

In an interesting coincidence, Director Mueller and ACLU chief Romero started their current positions at about the same time. Both had been on the job for only about a week when the September 11 attacks occurred and both faced daunting challenges in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. Mueller had to take steps to transform the FBI’s internal structure and culture into an agency focused intensely on the prevention of terrorism, while Romero had to lead his institution’s efforts to ensure that new security measures did not needlessly infringe on basic constitutional freedoms.

Alternately at odds and unlikely allies in the post-9/11 struggle to preserve freedoms while addressing national security concerns, the ACLU and the FBI have squared off over controversies as varied as newly relaxed investigative guidelines that allow federal agents to spy, without evidence of criminal activity, on political events and worship services, and have joined forces against such threats to civil liberties as a proposed domestic intelligence agency.

Mueller – a 30-year law enforcement veteran, attorney and former marine – will likely face tough questions from the ACLU members in attendance. The FBI was centrally implicated in a recent internal report by the Justice Department’s own Inspector General detailing the highly questionable treatment of detainees held in the months after 9/11 who were found to have nothing to do with the attacks. According to the IG’s findings, the FBI adhered to policies designed to deny – wholesale – detainees’ release on bond and access to counsel.

Also, in addition to allegations of physical and verbal abuse, the IG report details the FBI’s destruction of hundreds of videotapes that contained documentary evidence of detainee abuses and interrogations.

During the conference, ACLU members are attending workshops on the ACLU’s agenda with Washington legislative and legal staffs; lobbying members of Congress to support ACLU efforts, and questioning top federal officials and other Washington insiders about where they stand.

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