WASHINGTON -- Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, issued a scathing statement Thursday in response to new Justice Department guidelines on terrorism investigations.
"The administration's continued defiance of constitutional safeguards seems to have no end in sight," Conyers said in a written statement. "This decision decimates the Fourth Amendment."
Conyers went on to criticize the Justice Department's handling of information related to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"The Justice Department is intent on another power grab when it has become clear that a lack of competence -- not law enforcement authorities-- prevented the administration from connecting the dots before September 11," he said.
Conyers, a longtime proponent of civil rights causes, said the Bush administration should "immediately halt any efforts to unilaterally expand surveillance authority" and that Congress should be consulted "before implementing further intrusions on our civil liberties."
The Democrat from Michigan called the changes made by Attorney General John Ashcroft a "step backwards for civil liberties in this country."
"Threatening the private practice of religion constitutes a war on freedom, not a war on terror," Conyers said in conclusion.
He took direct aim at Ashcroft in saying: "I hope it is clear to all that taking it upon himself to institute new rules to wiretap religious organizations, including places of worship, the attorney general will do little to help us battle terrorism. Instead, it will simply further alienate the American-Muslim community, a crucial ally in our efforts."
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