Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Diverse Coalition Brings PATRIOT Act Concerns to Congress

As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence prepares to hold hearings on the sunsetting of the most egregious clauses in the USA PATRIOT Act -- passed quickly and without much deliberation in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 -- a diverse coalition of citizen groups has sent a letter to Committee members outlining the concerns of many Americans.

This letter certainly shows how politics makes strange bedfellows. In what room would you find, together, the conservative Rutherford Institute, the libertarian Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and American Muslim Voice? Or the Japanese American Citizens League hand-in-hand with the Korean American Coalition and the Organization of Chinese Americans?

I should note that I have written about the USA PATRIOT Act in the past, notably on April 5 and on January 1.

The letter below was coordinated by the Rights Working Group, which describes itself as "a coalition of civil rights, civil liberties, human rights and immigrant rights advocates who seek to develop a coordinated response to policies and attitudes leading to the deterioration of civil and human rights in the aftermath of 9/11."

The debate continues. Here is the letter in full:

April 18, 2005

Dear Members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:

While we applaud Congress’ promise to hold oversight hearings concerning the USA Patriot Act, we are concerned that Congress will focus too narrowly on that Act and ignore the broader civil rights, human rights and civil liberties issues that are of concern to our organizations and all Americans. Congress must recognize that widespread opposition to the USA Patriot Act reflects a more general discomfort over the government’s actions. It should note that the “anti-Patriot Act” resolutions passed by more than 360 communities and four states in fact deal with a wide array of issues outside the scope of the USA Patriot Act.

We urge the Congress to examine the many rights and liberties issues that have arisen since 9/ll, including the following:

*Mass secret arrests of Arabs and Muslims followed by detention for extended periods without charges, denials of access to counsel, secret hearings and, in some cases, abuse by prison guards;

*Abuse of the material witness authority to detain citizens and others without charges;

*Discriminatory enforcement of the immigration laws, leading to arbitrary detentions and deportations;

*Detentions of Americans incommunicado as “enemy combatants” without access to lawyers or the courts;

*Expanded use of secret wiretaps and secret searches of Americans’ homes and offices;

*Massive growth in surveillance technologies and authority (including the authority under the USA Patriot Act to seize library and medical records and all commercial databases) with inadequate legal protections against abuse;

*Spying on lawful political and religious activity; and

*Eavesdropping on attorney-client communications without judicial approval or oversight.
Taken together, these issues reflect a steady assault on fundamental rights and liberties that has served only to make us less free, and not more secure. With few exceptions, Congress has failed to address these issues. To the contrary, it is continuing to consider legislation, such as the REAL ID Act, that targets immigrants and asylum seekers unfairly without enhancing security. For Congress now to focus only on the concerns raised by the USA Patriot Act would be inappropriate.

Signed Organizations:


American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee - Washington State Office
American Immigration Lawyers Association
American Muslim Voice
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Amnesty International USA
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for American Progress
Center for Democracy and Technology
Center for National Security Studies
Constitutional Rights Coalition
Council of Ethics-Based Organizations associated with the Department of Public
Information, United Nations
First Amendment Foundation
Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quaker)
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Japanese American Citizens League
Korean American Coalition
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Mennonite Central Committee Washington State Office
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Committee Against Repressive Legislation
National Council of La Raza
National Federation of Filipino American Associations
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
National Immigration Forum
Immigration Law Center
National Korean American Service & Education
National Lawyers Guild
National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement
National Organization for Women
Open Society Policy Center
Organization of Chinese Americans
People For the American Way
Progressive Librarians Guild
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow
The Interfaith Alliance
The Multiracial Activist
The Rutherford Institute
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations


Albany Bill of Rights Restoration Committee (Albany, NY)
American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado
Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco, CA)
Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
Atlanta Bill of Rights Defense Campaign (Atlanta, GA)
Bangor Area Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Bangor, ME)
Bloomington Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Bloomington, IN)
Carolina Peace Resource Center (Columbia, SC)
Chico Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Chico, CA)
Citizens for an Informed Community (Bridgewater, MA)
Citizens for Peace and Justice (Jackson County, OR)
Clatsop County Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Clatsop County, OR)
coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
Coalition to Prevent the Erosion of Human Rights (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights (Chicago, IL)
Concord Civil Liberties Committee (Concord, MA)
Constitutional Justice Society, Inc. (MO)
DuPage Against War Now (DuPage County, IL)
East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (Oakland, CA)
Fort Collins Bill of Rights Supporters of Fort Collins (CO)
Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (Charlottesville, VA)
Green Party of Clallam County (Clallam County, WA)
Idaho Green Party (Boise, Idaho)
Idaho Patriots (Boise, ID)
Jersey City Peace Movement (Jersey City, NJ)
Lake County Peace Action (Lake County, CA)
Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Lane County, Oregon)
Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center (Las Vegas, NV)
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (San Francisco, CA)
Missouri Voters Action Team (MO)
Montana Women for Peace (Livingston, MT)
New Hampshire Faithful Democracy (Peterborough, and Concord, NH)
New Hampshire Faithful Democracy (Peterborough, NH)
New Hampshire Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility Department (Concord, and Littleton, NH)
New Hampshire Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility Department (Peterborough, NH)
Nicaragua Center for Community Action (Berkeley, CA)
NYC Bill of Rights Defense Campaign (New York City, NY)
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (Huntington, WV)
Organization of Chinese Americans-South Florida Chapter (Miami, FL)
PA for Democracy (PA)
Peace Action WI (Milwaukee, WI )
Philly for Change (Philadelphia, PA)
Pittsburgh Bill of Rights Defense Campaign (Pittsburgh, PA)
Port Orford Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Port Orford, OR)
Potters for Peace (Berkeley, CA)
PRIME-Ecumenical Commitment to Refugees (Clifton Heights, PA)
Prince George Bill of Rights Defense Coalition (Prince George, MD)
Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (Boulder, CO)
SAGE (Amherst, MA)
South Asian Network
Statesmanship National Activism Project (MO)
Statesmanship Party, Inc. (MO)
SW Colorado Peace & Justice Coalition (Durango, CO)
Tacoma Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Tacoma, WA)
Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition (Nashville, TN)
The Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (Dearborn, MI)
The Bozeman Peace Seekers (Bozeman, Montana)
The New York Immigration Coalition (New York, NY)
The Reform Party of Missouri, Inc. (MO)
Thomas Merton Center (Pittsburgh, PA )
Watertown (MA) Citizens for Environmental Safety (Watertown, MA)
Westchester Bill of Rights Defense Campaign (Westchester, NY)
Women For: Orange County (Orange County, CA)
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (Cape Cod, MA)
Worldview, Ltd. (Peterborough, NH)

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