ADC Objects to New Rule Eliminating Attorney-Client Confidentiality
Washington, DC — The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today objected to new rules issued by the Justice Department that allow for government agents to eavesdrop on all communications between some detainees in custody and their attorneys.
ADC believes that such measures are a clear violation of the Sixth Amendment since potentially they render assistance of counsel ineffective and interfere with a suspect’s ability to mount an effective defense. Moreover, ADC notes that the attorney-client privilege is deeply rooted in the American legal system and its common-law heritage, and that it is among the most fundamental bases for due process and fairness in an adversarial system. ADC also questions whether any evidence gathered under such circumstances can be considered admissible at trial. ADC therefore strongly urges Attorney General John Ashcroft to rescind these and any other recent measures that obviously flout American legal values and the Constitution.
ADC also reiterated its concerns regarding some aspects of the USA Patriot Act, which provide the government with sweeping new powers to detain non-citizens indefinitely with little or no process at the discretion of the Attorney General. The law also permits the government to conduct searches, seizures and surveillance with reduced standards of cause and levels of judicial review, although these elements will expire in four years unless re-approved by Congress. Finally, the law contains elements that could be construed as embodying guilt by association, in effect criminalizing many kinds of otherwise lawful contacts with groups that engage in any form of politically motivated violence, sabotage or vandalism. These provisions of the USA Patriot Act raise serious concerns regarding civil rights and liberties, especially as regards due process, and undermine the separation of powers and system of checks and balances between the branches of the Federal Government.
ADC also expressed concern about new State Department rules providing for heightened scrutiny for 20 days of visa applications from any men aged 16 to 45 years old. from 26 Arab and Muslim nations. Applicants of this description will now be required to complete a detailed questionnaire on their backgrounds, including questions about military service or weapons training, previous travel, and whether they had ever lost a passport. ADC strongly urges that the United States remain a country which does not engage in racial discrimination with regard to immigration and notes that these regulations tend to discriminate based on age, gender and national origin, all protected categories under domestic US law. The values embodied in American anti-discrimination laws ought also to inform immigration procedures, which should not include systematic discrimination.