ACLU, JACL Urge Senate Panel to Reject Detention Without Charge, Says Approval Would Violate Constitution, American Values

September 14, 2006 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – As the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security met today to consider differences between American and British anti-terrorism laws, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) urged lawmakers to reject any proposal to give the government the power to detain individuals indefinitely without charge, citing serious civil liberties concerns.

“Some Members of Congress are allowing partisan election considerations to overrule common sense and the core protections of our Constitution,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Detention without charge flies in the face of American laws and values. Our law enforcement agencies already have tools at their disposal unavailable to their British counterparts. We urge lawmakers to reject this assault on our fundamental freedoms.”

In the aftermath of the airline plot in the United Kingdom this summer, some administration officials have argued that America needs to grant the government greater surveillance and detention powers. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has directed the Justice Department to compare American and British anti-terrorism laws. There are stark differences between the two.

For example, British authorities have the power to detain individuals without charge for up to 30 days, a power that flies in the face of our Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth Amendment protection of due process. The ACLU said that giving the government power to detain individuals without charge would open a Pandora’s box of abuses.

JACL also noted historical reasons to reject a blanket policy of detention without charge. In the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, 120,000 persons of Japanese descent, most of whom were American citizens, were placed in internment camps under the pretext that they posed a security threat.

“If Congress enacts a policy of detention without charge, we face the real possibility that innocent Americans will yet again be rounded up without trial, under false premises,” said Floyd Mori, JACL Washington Representative. “History has shown that when too much power is given to the executive, we only come to regret those actions. The Constitution and its protections should be celebrated – not diluted.”

The ACLU’s letter opposing U.K. style detention without charge is available at:

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