Senator Hatch Hears Concerns About Post-9/11 Government Actions From Across the Political Spectrum As Judiciary Committee Convenes in Utah

April 14, 2004 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s public field hearing in Utah today on the state of current anti-terrorism measures, saying that continued open discussion about and public examination of the USA PATRIOT Act and other government actions will help amplify the numerous voices demanding that America be both safe and free.

“This public hearing is a step in the right direction. Many constituents have asked their members of Congress for a restoration of the civil liberties that have been unnecessarily lost,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “As the diverse panel of witnesses demonstrates, this issue is neither conservative nor liberal – its about protecting core American freedoms and liberties.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the senior senator from Utah, convened the hearing. The ACLU of Utah testified and was joined by a diverse range of groups, including the League of Women Voters of Utah, the Eagle Forum, Utah Grassroots-Conservative Caucus, and the Libertarian Party of Utah. Many more groups requested to speak out against the PATRIOT Act, but were unable to do so given the volume of requests.

In her testimony before the Committee, Dani Eyer, Executive Director of the ACLU of Utah, focused on the USA PATRIOT Act, the 2001 law that passed just six weeks after the terrorist attacks. The PATRIOT Act diminishes procedural checks and balances on executive powers, Eyer said, which are essential to preserving individual liberty. For instance, the Justice Department uses surveillance and investigative powers, granted or expanded in the PATRIOT Act, in cases completely unrelated to terrorism. The Attorney General lobbied for the PATRIOT Act, though, as a tool to combat al-Qaeda-style terrorism.

Since its passage, there has been a groundswell of opposition to the most egregious provisions of the PATRIOT Act. To date, 282 communities – including Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont and Maine – have passed resolutions calling for changes to the PATRIOT Act, and that number is still growing. Nearly 49 million Americans now live in a jurisdiction that has such a resolution, communities that range in size and political ideologies. In Utah, the town of Castle Valley has joined the cities of New York and Los Angeles in having passed such a measure.

“This hearing shows that the diverse opposition to the PATRIOT Act extends well beyond the Washington Beltway,” added Murphy. “The fact that Utah groups – both conservative and liberal – were turned away from testifying demonstrates that concerns for civil liberties are not limited to the halls of Congress, but exist on Main Street, USA. Senator Hatch should listen to his constituents – we must strive to protect the Constitution and preserve our freedoms.”

For more on the ACLU campaign to Keep America Safe and Free, go to:
/safeandfree

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