In New ACLU Television Ad, Ordinary Americans Urge Curb on Extreme Portions of Patriot Act

August 31, 2004 12:00 am

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Real People – Not Actors – Say “”It’s American”” to Protect Our Rights

NEW YORK – In a new national television advertisement debuting this week, the American Civil Liberties Union has recruited a diverse group of ordinary Americans – none of them actors – to express support for curbs on extreme portions of the Patriot Act due to “”sunset”” in 2005.

The 30-second spot, which began airing Monday on three national cable news networks, features 21 men and women questioning whether certain controversial portions of the Patriot Act should be made permanent instead of expiring in December 2005 in accordance with a “”sunset”” provision.

The ACLU said it called on “”real people”” to appear in the ads in order to reinforce the broad populist support for curbs on the law.

“”Who better to explain how the Patriot Act affects ordinary Americans than ordinary Americans themselves,”” said ACLU President Nadine Strossen. “”Once people understand that this law is allowing the government to investigate innocent Americans not connected to terrorism, they understand the need to scale back the more extreme provisions.””

In a series of quick cuts, men and women in a variety of settings express concern about sections of the Patriot Act that allow the government to spy on innocent Americans: “”The government can search your house?without notifying us?treating us all like suspects.”” Questioning parts of the Patriot Act, they said, “”isn’t liberal or conservative?left or right?it’s American.””

According to a recent national opinion poll conducted for the ACLU by Wirthlin Worldwide and Belden Russonello & Stewart, support for changes to the Patriot Act cuts across the political and ideological spectrum.

In a recent (July 2004) national survey of eligible voters, 73 percent support the position that the Patriot Act should be reviewed periodically and where necessary amended to bring its provisions in line with the Constitution. Two out of three (65 percent) of Republicans support this view, as do eight out of ten (81 percent) of Democrats and two-thirds (66 percent) of independent voters.

Strossen noted the growing bipartisan support for the Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act of 2003, which seeks to bring the Patriot Act back in line with the Constitution while providing law enforcement with the tools needed to combat terrorism. A number of Republican senators, including members of the Judiciary Committee, support reform of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, which allows the FBI to obtain Americans’ medical, business, library and even genetic records without probable cause.

This expansion of government powers has also resulted in a significant grassroots groundswell from across the political spectrum. Resolutions opposing the Patriot Act have passed in 336 communities in 41 states, including four statewide resolutions. These communities represent nearly 53 million people who believe that the Patriot Act goes too far.

Abby Lattes of Baltimore, a 39-year-old freelance public relations professional who appeared in the ad along with her seven-month old son Emmitt, said she believes the advertisement will strike a chord with viewers.

“”The ad emphasizes that protecting our rights is fundamentally American, and that’s something I think everyone can relate to,”” said Lattes, who is also a member of the ACLU.

The 30-second spot will air on the CNN, MSNBC and FOX networks through November 1, 2004, at a cost of $1.52 million. It can be viewed online here: View Video

A transcript of the ad is online at /node/23051

The advertisement was created by the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications company specializing in advocacy and image advertising, public affairs, and research. Based in Washington, D.C., and New York, the firm provides full-service communications expertise to corporate, foundation, and nonprofit clients nationwide.

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