Tucson City Council Passes USA PATRIOT Protest Resolution As Arizona Senator Discounts Constituents Seeking Civil Liberties Protections
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUCSON – Over the written protests of U.S. Senator John Kyl, the Tucson City Council last night passed a resolution opposing provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been supporting communities across the country seeking to protect civil liberties, said it was heartened that the efforts were not going unnoticed on Capitol Hill.
The Arizona Civil Liberties Union is sending a letter to Sen. Kyl today asking him to publicly correct factual errors in his letter, sent last week, urging the Tucson City Council members to oppose the civil liberties resolution.
“”Federal lawmakers are paying attention,”” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “”That Senator Kyl would discount locally elected officials on the Tucson City Council as a ‘miniscule minority’ just goes to show the impact city councils and state legislators are having in shaping the national debate.””
In his letter, Sen. Kyl, R-AZ, urged Tucson City Council members to oppose a measure expressing concern about the USA PATRIOT Act, the hastily passed October 2001 anti-terrorism law that has drawn the ire of close to 100 communities and cities across the United States for its erosions of basic civil liberties.
Even though it failed to persuade the majority of the Tucson City Council, the ACLU said that Sen. Kyl’s letter is notable in its misinterpretations of provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act.
He writes, “”For instance, prior to the Patriot Act, existing law allowed the government to seek court orders to monitor only land telephone lines, but not cell phones, which are much more attractive to terrorists. The Patriot Act also updates the law to include Internet communication such as e-mail. Without the Patriot Act, law enforcement would be forced to use out-of-date measures to catch terrorists using the latest technology.””
In actuality, the FBI, CIA and other federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies were never barred from wiretapping cellular phones or e-mail. What the USA PATRIOT Act did was to grant agents the authority to implement this surveillance without meaningful oversight by the courts or the Congress. By stripping the courts and the legislature of their roles as checks and balances on the power of the White House and federal agencies, the USA PATRIOT Act opened the door to official abuses of power, a concern not addressed in Sen. Kyl’s letter.
Senator Kyl’s letter also drew condemnation from Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Tucson. “”As a new Congressman from Tucson, I am saddened by Sen. Kyl’s unwillingness to listen to those who sent him to the Senate,”” he said. “”The Tucson City Council’s vote last night was simply a reflection of the widespread fear that our government, through laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, might not be acting in the best interests of both security and freedom in America.””
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