ACLU Calls for Monitoring of USA PATRIOT Act; Says Administration Misinformed Public After September 11

January 24, 2002 12:00 am


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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today called upon Congress to establish bodies of government officials and private citizens to monitor implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and criticized the Administration for providing misinformation to the public in the aftermath of September 11.

“Part of what makes America unique in the world is our unwavering commitment to the idea that our liberty and freedom must be as strong in a time of crisis as in a time of peace,” said Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU, at a House forum this morning. “We urge Congress to vigorously exercise its essential oversight responsibilities to help protect our freedoms in this time of crisis.”

Strossen testified this morning in front of a special House Judiciary Committee forum called by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Joining her on the hearing’s panels were, among others, Jim Zogby of the Arab-American Institute, Morton Halperin of the National Council on Foreign Relations and Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network.

Strossen noted repeated assurances by top government officials, including the Attorney General, that the government has honored the rights of the hundreds of Arab and Muslim individuals who have been detained since September 11. However, she said, these assurances are inconsistent with information the government itself recently disclosed in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other human rights groups. For example, according to the government’s disclosures pursuant to the FOIA lawsuit, many detainees were held for weeks, sometimes months, before being charged with a crime or immigration offense, a practice completely at odds with the Constitution.

“Be it deliberate or accidental, there is no excuse for the dissemination of misinformation to the public, especially in a time such as this,” Strossen said. “It is precisely because the investigation into the monstrous attacks of September 11 is of the most urgent public concern that the public must be privy to full and accurate information.”

In her testimony this morning, Strossen also called on Congress to establish bodies of government officials and private individuals to monitor the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act and respond to complaints alleging civil liberties or civil rights violations in the terrorism investigation.

The ACLU has been similarly vocal over the past four months about other Administration moves, calling attention to them as part of an emerging pattern of civil liberties abuses. These include the selective enforcement of deportation orders based on national origin and ethnicity, the round-ups of Arab and Muslim non-citizens for ‘voluntary’ interrogation by the INS and FBI and recent proposals to relax the limitations on FBI surveillance and infiltration of religious and political groups.

Strossen’s Testimony can be found at:
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