ACLU Urges House To Reject Conference Report; Decries Deeply Flawed Legislative Process

October 23, 2001 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Decrying a deeply flawed legislative process, the American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House of Representatives to reject the conference report on the anti-terrorism bill.

“This legislation is based on the faulty assumption that safety must come at the expense of civil liberties,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. “We can be safe and fight terrorism without substantially surrendering our civil liberties.”

In a letter to the full House, which could consider the conference report as early as tonight, Murphy said the USA Act (HR 2975) would give enormous, unwarranted power to the executive branch unchecked by meaningful judicial review. Most of the new powers, the ACLU said, could be used against American citizens in counter-terrorism investigations and in routine criminal investigations completely unrelated to terrorism.

“These new and unchecked powers could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally, and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General,” the ACLU’s letter said.

With House offices closed and staff unable to access their papers, Murphy said that the process that brought the conference report to the floor is deeply flawed and an offense to the thoughtful legislative process necessary to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“In past times of tragedy and fear, our government has harassed, investigated and arrested people solely because of their race, religion, national origin, speech or political beliefs,” the ACLU said. “We must not allow that to happen again even as we work together to protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks.”

The ACLU letter to the House can be found at:

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