Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Restore Civil Liberties Post 9/11; AkCLU and Broad-Based Coalition of Alaskans Applaud the "Protecting the Rights of Individuals" Act
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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska today joined with organizations and Alaskans from across the political spectrum in welcoming the introduction of a bipartisan bill aimed at correcting some of the most troubling provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.
S. 1552, the “”Protecting the Rights of Individuals Act,”” introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), would restore many of the civil liberties lost in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“”Increasing numbers of Americans – liberals, conservatives, and independents alike – are beginning to recognize that the PATRIOT Act went too far, and Alaskans have spoken out in record numbers this year in defense of the Bill of Rights,”” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska.
Rudinger noted that so far this year, nine Alaskan communities have passed local resolutions calling on Congress to amend the PATRIOT Act in order to preserve our cherished civil liberties. They are: Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, North Pole, Homer, Soldotna, Skagway, Gustavus, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
In addition, the Alaska Legislature passed a strong bipartisan resolution in May by a vote of 19-0 in the Senate and 37-1 in the House, urging Congress to fix the PATRIOT Act and forbidding the use of state resources in surveillance activities without at least reasonable suspicion that the subject of the search is involved in criminal activity.
“”We are proud to see Alaska taking the lead in defending the individual rights of the American people under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,”” said Rudinger. “”The Murkowski-Wyden bill reflects our dedication to civil liberties and our deep-seated belief that America can be both safe and free.””
Organizations in Alaska that have joined the broad-based grassroots coalition urging local, state and federal government to uphold the Bill of Rights and to preserve our cherished civil liberties include: the ACLU, the Alaska Library Association, Alaskans for Peace and Justice, the Alaska Women’s Press Club, the Cook Inlet Book Company, Common Ground of Alaska, the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church, the Green Party of Alaska, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP – Anchorage Branch, the Native American Rights Fund, the Religious Society of Friends, the Anchorage and Fairbanks Bill of Rights Defense Committees, and the Juneau Citizens for the Protection of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In addition, prominent individuals from all points on the political spectrum have spoken out against the USA PATRIOT Act, including Congressman Don Young, NRA Board member and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Wayne Anthony Ross, former Alaska Attorney General John Havelock, and former Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial candidate Fran Ulmer.
Introduction of the measure follows recent votes in Congress to restore liberties curtailed after 9/11. The House limited the ability of the Defense Department to engage in data-mining schemes targeting Americans, and the Senate adopted measures prohibiting that activity. The House also recently voted overwhelmingly to adopt a measure prohibiting law enforcement from initiating so-called “”sneak and peek”” warrants that violate privacy under diminished judicial standards.
The Murkowski-Wyden bill, if enacted, would help ameliorate many of the most controversial provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and write into law protective standards for some measures adopted by the Bush Administration without congressional approval.
Specifically, the Murkowski-Wyden bill would: protect First Amendment activities of political protestors by redefining domestic terrorism; correct section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act by providing greater judicial oversight and requiring a higher standard of proof before allowing access to highly private and sensitive data, including, library, bookstore and medical records; ban federal agencies from engaging in “”data-mining”” without explicit congressional authorization; and strengthen protections against government abuse by requiring that foreign intelligence warrants be issued only if the “”primary purpose”” of the warrant is for the gathering of foreign intelligence information.
The bill’s introduction also follows the filing of the first-ever lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the PATRIOT Act. The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by the ACLU on behalf of six advocacy and community groups from across the country whose members and clients believe they are currently the targets of investigations because of their ethnicity, religion and political associations. The challenge targets Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which vastly expands the power of FBI agents to secretly obtain records and personal belongings of innocent people in the United States, including citizens and permanent residents.
For more on the ACLU’s campaign to keep America Safe and Free, go to: www.aclu.org/safeandfree
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