Community Comes Out En Masse To Attend Forum Held in Nation's Capital, Panel Calls for Residents to Join Campaign to Keep America Safe and Free

November 1, 2003 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON – A diverse coalition of civil liberties and activist groups held a town hall forum here this evening to examine the loss of privacy and individual freedoms under federal legislation enacted since 9/11. Panelists included representatives from leading national civil rights advocacy groups and legal experts.

“”Washingtonians are well aware of the awesome power of Congress has to curtail freedom and liberty,”” said Patrice Webb, 9/11 National Organizer at the ACLU Washington Legislative Office and a panelist. “”Two years after the passage of the PATRIOT Act, many are still unaware of the awesome powers that the government has at its disposal. However, there are also those that are speaking out – and we hope that Washington D.C. will join them – in demanding that we be both safe and free.””

Webb was joined by the Honorable Hassan El-Amin, District Court Judge for Prince George’s County, Joseph Onek, Senior Counsel of the Constitution Project, Steve Dwyer with the Montgomery County Bill of Rights Coalition, and Anne Snowden, General Counsel at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Town hall forums like the one held in Washington have been held around the country -with high attendance – an indication said the ACLU, that there is growing discontent among ordinary Americans with federal measures like the USA PATRIOT Act which was rushed through Congress in the weeks after 9/11. Members of the panel highlighted provisions of the PATRIOT Act that have a questionable effect on security but have a definite curtailment of liberty.

Since it’s passage, the PATRIOT Act has come under increasing attack from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, former government officials, notable conservative groups and individuals and by more than 200 American communities in 34 states – including the state legislatures of Alaska, Vermont and Hawaii – that have passed resolutions in support of civil liberties. A similar resolution is pending before the Washington D.C. City Council.

In Congress, Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) recently introduced the Security and Freedom Enhanced (SAFE) Act, which would narrow key parts of the PATRIOT Act and enjoys strong bipartisan support. The SAFE Act limits “”sneak and peek”” delayed-notification searches, the monitoring of library and other personal records, restores key privacy protections for so-called roving wiretaps and expands the PATRIOT Act’s sunset provisions. Senator Craig, who sits on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees, vowed to pass the SAFE Act this year.

As further evidence of the need for the SAFE Act, the ACLU noted recent reports that many of the PATRIOT Act’s extraordinary powers are being used in run-of-the-mill criminal investigations, even though Justice Department officials assured lawmakers before the bill’s passage that it would only be used to combat terrorism.

“”America was told that the PATRIOT Act was needed to fight terrorism – we now know that isn’t completely true,”” added Webb. “”Not only did we lose our freedoms, but we lost them for the wrong reasons. Washington D.C., as the seat of the nation can and must demand that our fundamental freedoms be protected.””

For more on the ACLU’s campaign to Keep America Safe and Free, go to:

By completing this form, I agree to receive occasional emails per the terms of the ACLU’s privacy policy.

The latest in National Security

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About National Security

National Security issue image

The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.