WASHINGTON -- October 20 -- The American Civil Liberties Union today renewed its call to lawmakers to preserve freedom and privacy as House and Senate conferees meet to reconcile the starkly different intelligence reform bills each chamber passed. The meeting follows recent calls from the White House to preserve measures contained in the House bill that were not called for by the 9/11 Commission that attack immigrants and undermine privacy.|
"The White House knows the tremendous political risks of ignoring the protests of key constituencies this close to an election," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The Administration cannot claim to appease immigrant groups by rejecting some provisions while still pushing for some of the worst anti-immigrant powers in a decade. The White Houses anti-civil liberties posture with regard to this legislation could not be clearer."
The various measures have prompted opposition from families of 9/11 victims, members of the 9/11 Commission, and groups including the ACLU, Gun Owners of America, the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the conservative Cuban American National Foundation.
Despite such strong opposition, the White House and the House leadership have continued to push for highly controversial powers, including parts of the draft "Patriot Act 2" legislation, and some of the worst anti-immigrant provisions seen in a decade. The White House, likely guided by pressure from key immigrant groups, has expressed opposition to a few of the anti-immigrant provisions, but it still supports many radical court-stripping and indefinite detention measures that have long been a wish-list of the anti-immigrant lobby.
The House bill would deny immigrants basic judicial review over unfair, arbitrary or otherwise abusive deportations. It permits the deportation of individuals to countries lacking a functioning government - where they could be subject to torture -- and would make it more difficult for individuals to claim asylum. These measures were also not called for by the Commission.
The House bill seeks to expand material support crimes, "lone wolf" surveillance powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, creates 29 new death penalties for "terrorist" crimes, and pretrial detention for anyone charged with a terrorism crime. None of these "Patriot Act 2" measures were called for by the 9/ 11 Commission.
In addition, the White House opposes crucial civil liberties protections called for by the Commission and contained in the Senate bill, including a key 9-11 Commission recommendation for a strong civil liberties protection board.
"Its amazing that the House leaders or the White House are calling this an intelligence reform bill," added Murphy. "Congress must act to protect freedom and privacy. For the sake of all of us, they must reject the controversial House provisions from the final bill."