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FYI: ACLU Challenges U.S. Anti-Terrorism Law

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  • Carl Davidson
    ACLU Challenges U.S. Anti-Terrorism Law Reuters Wednesday 30 July 2003 DETROIT - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the federal
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2003
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      ACLU Challenges U.S. Anti-Terrorism Law
      Reuters

      Wednesday 30 July 2003

      DETROIT - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit
      against the federal government on Wednesday aimed at curbing the
      vastly expanded spy powers won under the anti-terrorism law passed
      soon after the Sept. 11 attacks

      The suit, filed in federal court in Detroit on behalf of six Arab-
      American groups, targets a key provision of the USA Patriot Act that
      gives the FBI more leeway to conduct domestic surveillance.

      ``This lawsuit is the first legal challenge to the USA Patriot Act,
      passed shortly and with almost no public debate after the terrorist
      attacks of September 11th," said Kary Moss, director of the Michigan
      chapter of the ACLU.

      ``The Ashcroft administration has launched a war on all of us by
      strategically trying to cut back the protections of the Bill of
      Rights," she said at a news conference.

      Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has described the Patriot Act
      as a critical weapon in the war declared by President Bush after the
      attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, is a defendant in the
      ACLU suit along with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

      Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the lawsuit challenges
      as unconstitutional, the FBI can secretly search and seize records,
      books, papers or other personal belongings of practically anyone,
      without a warrant and without showing probable cause.

      The agency can also impose a lifelong ``gag" order prohibiting
      anyone served with Section 215 orders -- aimed for example at getting
      information about a suspect's medical history, reading habits,
      political activities or religious affiliation -- from telling someone
      else about the
      investigation.

      Section 215 Defended

      A Justice Department spokesman in Washington said it would have no
      immediate comment about the ACLU's lawsuit. But the department later
      issued a statement defending Section 215, saying it could only be
      used to conduct a narrow set of investigations.

      ``It should be noted that criticism of Section 215 frequently
      ignores what the provision actually includes," said Justice
      Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock.

      The ACLU's lawsuit was filed just a week after the Republican-
      controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to roll
      back another key provision of the Patriot Act. And Moss said more
      than 143 cities across the nation have now passed local resolutions
      against the Patriot Act in what she described as a groundswell of
      opposition to ``the
      government's war on the Bill of Rights."

      Mary Rose Oakar, head of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination
      Committee that is one of the six plaintiffs in the ACLU case, noted
      that Arabs and Muslim-Americans have been the primary target of the
      FBI's counter-terror measures after Sept. 11.

      But at the news conference at the ACLU's headquarters in Detroit,
      which is home to a large Arab-American community, Oakar said the
      ``chilling effects of the Patriot Act could happen to anyone" and
      warned against the erosion of U.S. civil liberties.

      ``This is an un-American, unconstitutional act. It must be
      challenged to protect the basic rights of the people of the United
      States of America," she said.

      © Copyright 2003 by TruthOut.org
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