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American Muslim

Patriot II will infringe on basic liberties:ACLU

WASHINGTON February 16, 2003  -- The American Civil Liberties Union today said that new Department of Justice "anti-terrorism" legislation goes further than the USA PATRIOT Act in eroding checks and balances on Presidential power and contains a number of measures that are of questionable effectiveness, but are sure to infringe on civil liberties.

"The new Ashcroft proposal threatens to fundamentally alter the Constitutional protections that allow us to be both safe and free," said Timothy H. Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "If it becomes law, it will encourage police spying on political and religious activities, allow the government to wiretap without going to court and dramatically expand the death penalty under an overbroad definition of terrorism…"

Provisions in the Attorney General's bill would allow the government to strip citizenship from any American who provides support for a group designated by the federal government as a "terrorist organization" (section 501). Significantly, the USA PATRIOT Act broadened the definition of groups that could be so designated to potentially include domestic protest organizations such as Operation Rescue or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Also included are provisions permitting -- without court order and at the sole discretion of the Attorney General -- wiretapping of Americans for 15 days (sections 103, 104) without a declaration of war by Congress, if the Executive Branch decides unilaterally that an attack has created an emergency. While the Justice Department would have to check in with a judge after the 15 days, the information gleaned during that period could still be retained and used against innocent Americans, the ACLU said.

Other contentious proposals in the draft legislation include statutory authority for secret detentions and the termination of court-approved limits on police spying…

These provisions are only a sampling of the civil liberties concerns in the Ashcroft proposal, the ACLU said.

Click here for a detailed section-by-section analysis of the draft bill: