Nation's Capital Unanimously Passes Pro-Civil Liberties Resolution; Washington, D.C. Becomes Latest to Join Call to Keep America Safe and Free

March 4, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today hailed the unanimous passage by the Washington, D.C. City Council of a pro-civil liberties resolution urging a narrowing of some of the most egregious portions of the USA PATRIOT Act and affirming support for freedom in the post-9/11 era.

“Residents of the nation’s capital are keenly aware of the freedoms that this country stands for, and that these freedoms are being threatened,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Washington is synonymous with freedom and liberty, so it is fitting and proper that the nation’s capital has joined millions across the country in demanding that America can, and must, be both safe and free.”

The resolution was adopted unanimously Tuesday night by the City Council because the PATRIOT Act was “enacted in reaction to the tragedy of September 11, 2001 without adequate consideration of provisions that undermine civil liberties.” It urges members of Congress to modify the Act, and calls on the White House to create a bipartisan panel to review how any new national security measures would affect constitutional guarantees.

“There is no inherent conflict between the preservation of liberty and the need to protect the public,” the resolution says. “All security measures taken to protect the public can, and must, do so without impairing constitutional rights or infringing upon civil liberties.” The resolution also says that public libraries shall post notices that federal agents may obtain records of what patrons borrow, and that Metropolitan police are prohibited from using racial profiling.

Washington joins a growing list of 260 governing bodies responding to the Patriot Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation steamrolled through Congress in October of 2001, and other post-9/11 security measures. Similar resolutions have passed elsewhere, including the state legislatures of Hawaii, Alaska and Vermont, encompassing about 43 million people in 37 states. Participating communities range in size and political inclination from tiny, conservative North Pole, Alaska to New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco.

In addition to local governments, several national organizations have adopted similar pro-civil liberties resolutions. Among them are the American Library Association, the Japanese American Citizens League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National League of Cities, the Organization of Chinese Americans and Veterans for Peace.

There are currently several measures pending in Congress that seek to bring the PATRIOT Act back in line with the Constitution.

One such measure is the Safety and Freedom Ensured (SAFE Act), a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Larry Craig (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Sununu (R-NH) and Russell Feingold (D-WI). The SAFE Act is a set of modest reforms designed to bring the most egregious provisions of the PATRIOT Act in line with the Constitution. The SAFE Act was the subject of a letter sent last week from Attorney General John Ashcroft advising key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that if the SAFE Act passed in its current form the President would be advised to veto it.

“The fact that the resolution passed in Washington D.C., the nation’s capital and a target of the devastating attacks of 9/11, sends a resounding message that Americans are not willing to trade their freedom for policies that do not make them any more safe,” said Johnny Barnes, Executive Director, ACLU of the National Capital Area. “The District of Columbia has shown its true patriotism by speaking out against the PATRIOT Act, which went too far, too fast after 9/11, and demanding that our civil liberties not be forgotten as we meet the challenges of this new era.”

For more on the local resolutions campaign, go to:
/resolutions

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