CIVIL LIBERTIES AND ARAB GROUPS CHALLENGE PATRIOT ACT SURVEILLANCE
Associated Press, 7/30/03
The American Civil Liberties Union and several Arab-American groups
are mounting a legal challenge to parts of the USA Patriot Act that
let authorities monitor books people read and carry out secret
The ACLU's Michigan office on Wednesday announced what it called "the
first-ever direct constitutional challenge to the USA Patriot Act,"
filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
"Ordinary Americans should not have to worry that the FBI is rifling
through their medical records, seizing their personal papers, or
forcing charities and advocacy groups to divulge membership lists,"
said Ann Beeson, lead attorney in the lawsuit...
The group asked the justices to consider when the government should
be allowed to monitor telephone conversations and e-mail, then use
the information to prosecute the monitored person
Some of the groups participating in the lawsuit are the Washington,
D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim
Community Association of Ann Arbor, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship
Services in Knoxville, Tenn., and The Islamic Center of Portland.
The provisions being targeted allow the federal government wider
latitude than in the past to seize records, books and papers in
investigations of international terrorism, the ACLU says.
"People are worried about their privacy, and when they check out
books, they want to feel safe," Haaris Ahmad, executive director of
the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, told The
Detroit News. "In a free society, people have freedom of thought..."
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CAIR JOINS FIRST LEGAL CHALLENGE TO PATRIOT ACT
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/30/2003) - The Council on American-Islamic
Relations (CAIR) today joined five other advocacy and community
groups in mounting a constitutional challenge to the section of the
USA Patriot Act that vastly expands the FBI's power to spy on
ordinary people living in the United States. The lawsuit, litigated
by the ACLU, names Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director
Robert Mueller as the defendants.
At a news conference this morning in Detroit, Mich., representatives
of the ACLU and the plaintiffs outlined why they believe Section 215
of the USA Patriot Act is unconstitutional.
* Under Section 215, the FBI has virtually unlimited power to
secretly obtain a variety of information about ordinary Americans,
including medical records, reading habits, religious affiliations,
and Internet surfing.
* Section 215 allows the FBI to obtain records and personal
belongings without having to show "probable cause" or any reason to
believe that there has been any wrongdoing.
* A gag order in the law prevents those served with Section 215
orders from telling anyone that the FBI demanded information, even if
the information poses no risk to national security.
* There is no limit to the kinds of information the FBI can get under
* Judicial oversight of these new powers is extremely limited. The
government must merely assert that such a search meets the statute's
"We stand firmly in support of our nation's security," said CAIR
Board Chairman Omar Ahmad. "Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act does
not enhance that security, but instead violates the privacy rights of
all Americans and creates a legal cover for intrusive investigations
of people who are not suspected of planning or carrying out criminal
acts. The abuses inherent in this legislation are also unnecessary
because the government already had the power to investigate criminal
Ahmad noted that many libraries nationwide have reacted to Section
215 by shredding documents and notifying patrons that their records
are at risk.
Along with filing the lawsuit, the ACLU is releasing a new
report, "Unpatriotic Acts: The FBI's Power to Rifle Through Your
Records and Personal Belongings Without Telling You," which describes
how Section 215 violates the Constitution.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include CAIR, American-Arab-Anti-
Discrimination Committee (ADC), Muslim Community Association of Ann
Arbor (MCA), Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services
(ACCESS), Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, and the Islamic
Center of Portland, Masjed As-Saber.
- END -
CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:
; Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-
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