ACLU Urges Congress to Follow Deliberative Process As It Considers New Measures After Terrorist Attacks

September 17, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union today urged Congress to follow a deliberative and democratic process as it considers significant changes in federal law in response to last week’s death of thousands of innocent people from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

“We are now in a fight against an enemy that has targeted not only our lives and property, but also the fundamental values of freedom and equality that are the hallmarks of our democracy,” said Anthony Romero, ACLU Executive Director.

“Terror, by its very nature, is intended not only to kill and destroy,” Romero continued. “Terror is also designed to intimidate a people and force them to take actions that may not be in their long-term best interests. If we allow our freedoms to be undermined, the terrorists will have won.”

Attorney General Ashcroft today asked Congress to adopt and send to the President by the end of the week legislation that would include many provisions to expand federal law enforcement authority in ways that would infringe on civil liberties without any public showing that they will make us safer. Last week, the Senate adopted new wiretapping measures in the middle of the night with little to no debate.

“Obviously there is a need for heightened security,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “The ACLU’s goal is to monitor the proposals for increased law enforcement powers to ensure that they have maximum effectiveness with a minimal erosion of civil liberties.”

Murphy urged the Bush Administration and Congressional leaders to work to instill public confidence in the legislative process by making its proposals public and giving Congress enough time to hold hearings and debate before moving proposals to the floor in a timely manner.

Congress should strive to avoid situations like last week’s hurried Senate vote to expand wiretapping authority. That late night vote has led several Senate staff to call the ACLU, asking, “What did we just vote on?”

“We cannot let our grief and anger overwhelm our democracy,” Murphy concluded. “Now is the time for the people’s representatives to be even more thoughtful and deliberative than usual.”

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