National Terrorism Commission Report Seriously Threatens Civil Liberties
Washington, DC, June 4 — Recommendations in the report by the National Commission on Terrorism pose a serious threat to civil liberties, charged the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the nation‘s largest Arab-American membership organization. According to today‘s Washington Post, the report, which is to be officially released tomorrow, calls for abolishing restrictions on CIA activity, tracking foreign students in the United States, using the Army for domestic disaster management in the event of a major terrorist attack, and targeting suspected “terrorist fundraising” by charitable organizations. ADC President Hala Maksoud said “Arab Americans are extremely concerned about the threat of terrorism, but such concerns cannot justify violating basic Constitutional rights. If implemented, these recommendations would severely damage civil liberties and facilitate abusive behavior by the government, without necessarily producing any increase in security.”
In its written submission to the Commission, ADC observed that civil liberties and the distinction between domestic law enforcement and military and intelligence activities were threatened by approach the government was taking to the battle against terrorism. ADC is dismayed that the Commission‘s recommendations, rather than seeking to defend civil liberties, would only exacerbate the problem. Easing restrictions on CIA activities and encouraging the military to become increasingly drawn into domestic law enforcement and disaster management, invite heavy-handed government action and show little regard for the need to balance security measures with protections of civil liberties. Domestic law enforcement should be free of military and intelligence involvement, restricted to investigating criminal activity and prohibited from investigating or monitoring lawful political or academic activities.
In its submission, ADC specifically warned against any measures targeting foreign students in the Unites States and is appalled by the Commission‘s proposal to track all international students. Provisions in the Commission‘s Report for tracking students indicate a willingness to restrict scientific knowledge and scholarship to certain classes of people, and to flout principles of academic freedom and the universality of information which should be the common heritage of humanity. ADC is also deeply concerned that measures targeting “terrorist fundraising” would in fact restrict both legitimate international charitable work, and constitute an attack on First Amendment protected political activity and association. ADC notes that the Commission‘s recommendations are also called into serious question by the absence of Salam Al-Marayati, an Arab American civil rights leader , whose nomination to the Commission was withdrawn after a campaign of slander against him by a number of pro-Israel organizations.