November 03, 2003
Update on ADC's Challenge to the USA Patriot Act
October 3, Washington, DC--In late July, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) and several other organizations, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), filed a challenge to Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The US Department of Justice, however, has attempted to dismiss the challenge.
In response, the ACLU today filed a response on behalf of ADC and the other plaintiff organizations, accompanied by several amicus briefs from many other organizations asserting the reasons why the US government should not dismiss the challenge and the case should continue. A hearing in this case is scheduled for December 3, 2003 in front of Judge Denise Pagehood of the US District Court in Detroit, Michigan. Other groups participating in the lawsuit include the Muslim Community Association of Ann Harbor (MCA), the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services ('Bridge'), and the Council of Arab-Islamic
According to the response filed today, abuses under the Patriot Act continue to occur. While many sections of the Patriot Act deserve closer attention, Section 215 in particular expands the ability of the FBI to secretly obtain records and personal belongings of anybody living in the US, including US citizens and permanent residents. Section 215 would allow, for example, FBI agents to access any individual's bank, library or medical records without that individual knowing about the breach into his/her privacy. The bank, library, or doctor would not be allowed to inform anyone of the breach, therefore canceling out the possibility that the individual could challenge the infringement in a court of law.
In effect, while expanding the powers of the federal government, judicial oversight was reduced. Prior to the Patriot Act, access to people's information required probable cause and was subject to judicial oversight, but such safeguards have now been omitted. Past episodes in the history of the US have revealed to us that the federal government has abused their powers before. The most notorious and extreme examples of abuse were committed under J. Edgar Hoover, once director of the FBI, following World War II. Other examples of abuse include the Japanese internment camps of World War II and the 'Red Scare' of the 1950's where groups of a specific race, ethnicity, or ideology were targeted and harassed. While we do not suppose that this degree of abuse will occur under the Patriot Act, the point is made that the US federal government is neither perfect nor infallible. It is important to fully restore the safeguards that protect the rights of US citizens and permanent residents around the country. For more information, go to: