Two More New Jersey Towns Unanimously Pass Pro-Civil Liberties Resolutions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today applauded the Township Councils of Ewing and Mullica for their unanimous vote in support of pro-civil liberties resolutions that affirm their commitment to defending national security without sacrificing fundamental civil rights and liberties.
“The USA PATRIOT Act threatens the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect,” said ACLU of New Jersey Executive Director Deborah Jacobs. “Communities across American are very concerned about the expansion of government powers. They see it limiting civil liberties and not keeping us safe from terrorism. We commend the people of Ewing and Mullica Townships for taking a stand to ensure that America remains both safe and free.”
Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act just 45 days after the September 11 attacks, with virtually no debate. This 342-page piece of legislation allows for the broadest expansion of police and law enforcement powers in recent history. Some of the most troubling provisions of the Act enable the FBI to access private records, including medical records, library records and student records, without the need for a warrant or establishing probable cause that a crime has occurred or is about to occur. A “gag provision” within the Act prevents the person being searched from ever learning that he or she has been the subject of government surveillance.
In the two years since the passage of the Act, numerous lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — have condemned some of the Act’s most far-reaching provisions and have called for closer scrutiny into how the government uses its expanded powers.
Ewing and Mullica Townships are the fourth and fifth New Jersey communities — following Willingboro, Princeton and Highland Park Borough — to pass resolutions in reaction to the federal government’s controversial USA PATRIOT Act. They join over 250 communities and three states that have passed resolutions condemning the Act.
These local votes come at a crucial time, as President Bush presses to extend the surveillance provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act beyond 2005 when they are scheduled to expire.
The Ewing Township resolution, which will be sent to Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, calls for assurances that the surveillance provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act do in fact expire at their scheduled sunset date, and that no further expansion of government surveillance powers is taken that infringes upon individual rights and civil liberties.
The campaign to pass a pro-civil liberties resolution in Ewing Township was initiated by residents Norma Saltz and Allan Willinger, who founded the group Ewing Citizens for Civil Liberties. Starting with a handful of concerned citizens, the group expanded after they held a public forum at the Ewing Public Library about the USA PATRIOT Act and other government actions since September 11, 2001 that threaten civil liberties.
Jann Nielsen, a Ewing resident, said that she got involved with the group because “”I did not want our freedoms to be whittled away bit by bit.””
The group’s co-founder, Allan Willinger, added: “Its great to be represented by a Township Council that is so concerned about the threat the USA PATRIOT Act poses to our civil liberties. I hope citizens in other towns join the grassroots movement to pass a resolution in their towns.””
Mullica Township, with a population of about 6,000, is considered to have generally conservative politics. Its Township Committee is made up of five Republicans. The Council’s unanimous adoption of a resolution affirming its commitment to the U.S. Constitution demonstrates growing concerns from both ends of the political spectrum about expanded government power and the threat to checks and balances posed by the USA PATRIOT Act and other measures adopted since September 11, 2001.
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