ACLU Urges Continued Oversight, Additional Disclosures

October 17, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – In response to today’s release of the Department of Justice’s answers to questions submitted by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensennbrenner (R-WI) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) about the implementation of the USA Patriot Act, the American Civil Liberties Union gave the following statement:

Representative Sensenbrenner was apparently given access to information that the Department of Justice has asserted is classified.

The ACLU, however, believes it is critically important that the public learn how Attorney General John Ashcroft is using the vast new surveillance powers granted the government in the USA PATRIOT Act and we do not think that the Department of Justice should be hiding its answers behind a classified stamp.

We have therefore continuing to pursue our request under the Freedom of Information Act (see: to force the Justice Department to tell the American public, among other things:

(1) The number of times the FBI has used pen registers or trap and trace devices against United States citizens or permanent residents. (Patriot Act, Section 214.)

(2) The number of times the FBI has ordered libraries, bookstores or newspapers to divulge records or other tangible things. (Patriot Act, Section 215.)

(3) The number of United States citizens or permanent residents who have been subject to new surveillance orders since the enactment of the Patriot Act.

Finally, the ACLU does not believe that the release of such aggregate, statistical information would jeopardize national security or any other legitimate government interest.

While we applaud Chairman Sensenbrenner and Ranking Member Conyers for their commitment to vigorous oversight, we nonetheless believe that the Department of Justice must make the answers to all of the important questions raised by the House Judiciary Committee public and will continue to push for full disclosure.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

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