As Senate Convenes Hearings, ACLU Asks Congress To Protect Civil Liberties, Balance of Powers

November 28, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — As the Senate convened a series of oversight hearings into the government’s terrorism-related activities, the American Civil Liberties Union today strongly urged Congress to act to ensure that the war against terrorism not become a war against democracy.

“Over the last 10 weeks, the Department of Justice has undermined our most cherished rights, blunted the tools of government accountability and threatened the balance of power between the various branches of government,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “We applaud the Senate for taking the lead in exercising its role in overseeing the Executive Branch and urge Congress to fully embrace its responsibility for protecting our democratic government.”

In a 12-page statement submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the ACLU said the Bush Administration has acted unilaterally to impose policies under which it has detained more than a thousand people without providing information to the media and the public, issued new regulations allowing for the recording of privileged conversations between attorneys and clients and prepared to use military tribunals that do not have sufficient constitutional protections.

Titled “Preserving Freedoms While Defending Against Terrorism,” today’s hearing before the Judiciary Committee is the first of three that the panel has scheduled in the next two weeks. Next week, the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to examine the issue of the detainees and to hear testimony from Attorney General Ashcroft.

“From the outset of our national crisis, President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft have pledged that they would not erode civil liberties in response to the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, the Administration’s actions have belied those promises. From establishing military tribunals without Congressional approval to expanding wiretapping authority while limiting judicial oversight, the Bush Administration is demonstrating its disregard for the other two branches of government.”

“The all-important balance of powers is becoming dangerously tilted,” Murphy said, “threatening the underpinnings of our democracy.”

The ACLU’s statement can be found online at:

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