ACLU of Illinois "Disappointed" by Expanded Surveillance Authority in State Anti-Terrorism Bill

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
November 29, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU of Illinois
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Statement of Colleen K. Connell, Executive Director
ACLU of Illinois


CHICAGO–We are disappointed that the Illinois General Assembly today approved House Bill 2299, a measure expanding state and local police authority to monitor and record conversations without traditional safeguards.

Proponents of the measure failed to make a compelling case for the measure’s necessity. Congress recently enacted sweeping new powers for federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute any individual or group involved in terrorism. State and local law enforcement officials now work with federal law enforcement officials in anti-terrorism efforts.

It is clear that federal law enforcement officials will take the lead in these investigations, raising serious questions about the need for the General Assembly to adopt this legislation during the abbreviated veto session.

At the same time, we are gratified that representatives and senators agreed with our concerns about House Bill 2299 as originally proposed. Working with these members and others, we recognize the final measure approved today includes a number of significant improvements — including a more narrowly tailored definition of “terrorism” that no longer includes lawful activity or punished civil disobedience, and placing critical limits on the ability of state and local law enforcement officials to seize assets from individuals they “believe” are involved in terrorist activities.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois remains concerned, however, that the legislation approved today still significantly expands law enforcement authority to wiretap conversations and monitor other electronic communications. Elimination of the traditional requirement that requests for wiretaps specify the place of the interception undoubtedly will result in large numbers of overheard conversations involving persons not suspected of any criminal activity, attorney-client conversations and sensitive business information.

Finally, we are disappointed that House Bill 2299 adds a new aggravating factor to Illinois’ failed death penalty system. Current Illinois law already contemplates that persons found guilty of terrorist activities would be sentenced to death. This unnecessary addition before the Governor’s Death Penalty Commission issues its final report underscores our concern about the rapidity with which this measure was drafted, amended and adopted.

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