September 19, 2003
Contact: Nancy Talanian, Director Samina Faheem, Executive Director
Bill of Rights Defense Committee American Muslim Voice
Northampton, Massachusetts Palo Alto, California
Bill of Rights Defense Committee and American Muslim Voice Challenge Ashcroft to Publicize His Appearances and to Engage in Open Debate With Critics
A week after the purported end of Attorney General John Ashcroft's 16-city tour to defend the Patriot Act ended in New York City, the Attorney General is speaking to law enforcement in six cities with little or no advance notice to the public. Yesterday, Ashcroft visited Louisville, Memphis, and Little Rock. Today, he visits Minneapolis, Omaha, and Kansas City. Critics of the Patriot Act and of Ashcroft's tour to defend it interpret this stealth tour as an obvious effort to squelch the growing public dissent.
The Department of Justice issued a press release the public and the media at least 24 hours in advance of each of Ashcroft's speeches between August 19 and September 9. Members of the public, the press, and Congress criticized the Attorney General's strategy of using closed-door meetings with law enforcement to 'correct misinformation' about his department's failed policies, most notably the Patriot Act. The public's response to that tour was predictable-rallies outside every closed door meeting, building to a climax of more than 1200 demonstrators in Boston and 2500 in New York City at the purported final day.
"People across the country are becoming concerned about threats to freedom of speech, privacy, and due process of law," according to Nancy Talanian, Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, based in Northampton, Massachusetts. "This stealth tour shows that the Attorney General has little respect for the First Amendment or for open debate to resolve a divisive issue." Talanian notes that this week, the Attorney General's tone toward the Patriot Act's detractors, especially librarians, has become alarmingly belligerent.
Talanian's organization has seen a boost in people examining the Patriot Act and taking action against it since Ashcroft's tour began. "People see the tour as a desperate move, so they are looking into the Patriot Act, and they don't like what they see." She notes that the number of visitors to their web site (bordc.org) is up sharply and that 15 cities and towns representing
over 2.7 million people have passed resolutions opposing the Patriot Act since the tour began. So far 165 cities and towns and three states have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act. Hundreds of municipalities have similar efforts underway.
Talanian concludes, "Mr. Ashcroft's secret tour of closed-door meetings shows that he doesn't respect the healthy and open debate about the Patriot Act taking place in cities and towns across America, in Congress, and within organizations of all sorts. The only way this issue will be resolved is if Mr. Ashcroft would engage openly and honestly with his critics."
American Muslim Voice also expressed concern over the secretive visit of Mr. Ashcroft. Ms. Samina Faheem, the AMV Executive Director, said that the Attorney General’s closed door meetings on the Patriot Act is another proof that he has little respect for the open debate that continues across the nation today. She added that efforts continued in many Bay Area counties and cities – including San Jose, San Ramon and Mountain View - to pass resolutions against the Patriot Act.
NOTE: For the current list of communities that have passed resolutions or
are working on them by state, go to www.bordc.org/OtherLocalEfforts.htm.
For a chronological list, go to www.bordc.org/Chronology.pdf.