ACLU Reaches Common Ground on Response to Terrorist Attacks At Texas Forum Featuring Conservative Leaders and Muslim Republicans

Affiliate: ACLU of Texas
June 26, 2003 12:00 am

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HOUSTON – Bridging a huge ideological gap, left- and right-leaning strange bedfellows yesterday banded together at an American Civil Liberties Union forum here to express concerns about the government’s insatiable appetite for new law enforcement powers post-9/11 and to argue that Americans can be both safe and free.

“This latest gathering proves once again that groups from across the ideological spectrum can and do stand together in support of our basic freedoms,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU National Office. “What happens in Washington has real effects on everyday Americans and these effects transcend every social and political division in this nation, including ideology, religion and even partisan politics.”

Yesterday’s forum, organized by the ACLU of Texas and held at the University of St. Thomas, featured Bob Barr, the unflinchingly conservative former congressman from Georgia; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, conservative activist and White House insider; Farha Ahmad, head of the Muslim American Republican Caucus, and the ACLU’s Murphy. Attendance at the forum was standing room only — a signal, the ACLU said, of the growing public concern for the erosion of civil liberties post-9/11.

The panelists examined the USA PATRIOT Act, which was hastily passed by Congress in the weeks after 9/11, and paid particular attention to sections that erode privacy rights.

Participants also touched on the draft Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, or PATRIOT II, which would, if passed, further erode core checks and balances against the abuse of government power. The follow-up proposed legislation to the original PATRIOT Act was leaked to the press earlier this year and contains a number of specific provisions that both build on and surpass the freedom-leaching measures in its predecessor.

Among the anti-civil liberties provisions in PATRIOT II are sections that authorize the federal government to strip Americans’ citizenship; grant immunity to federal agents engaged in patently illegal activity so long as their actions were ordered by high ranking White House or federal agency officials, and provide for wholly warrantless surveillance after another “terrorist attack,” an undefined term that could encompass events outside what the average American would consider terrorism.

“Nobody in America would argue that we don’t have to take steps to protect ourselves against terrorism – we do – but that doesn’t mean that we should throw rationality to the wind by passing laws like PATRIOT II that harm our liberty but do little to make us safer,” Murphy said. “That Muslims, Republicans and ACLUers can share a stage to speak out against these proposals is proof enough of their wrong-headedness.”

More on the Town Hall can be found at:

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