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:
http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=14307&c=262 ADC Views Legal Challenge to USA PATRIOT Act as Necessary to Defend Arab-American Civil Liberties
July 30, DETROIT – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) today joined a number of other Arab-American and Muslim groups as co-plaintiffs in the first-ever legal challenge to the USA PATRIOT Act. The case focuses on vastly expanded powers under Section 215 for the government to secretly obtain records and personal belongings of people in the United States, including library, internet and medical records. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will litigate the case.
Click to read the Complaint by ADC in the PDF
ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, “We do not take this serious step lightly by any means, but we see this lawsuit as vital to defend the civil rights of Arab Americans. Section 215 of the Patriot Act is completely incompatible with basic civil liberties, most notably freedom from unreasonable search and seizure by the government as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. It is unacceptable for the government to be looking over everybody’s shoulder when they go on the internet, and snoop into the library, medical and banking records of ordinary people. Section 215 also potentially allows the government to access, without probable cause, information on our members which we regard as strictly confidential. Even more disturbingly, we would be prohibited from telling anyone about this if it happened. That is simply un-American.”
“We are all very aware of the need for vigilant security and are committed to the security of our country,” former Congresswoman Oakar continued, “but there is no justification for trashing important constitutional protections, such as the requirement for probable cause. Some of the policies we have seen from the government in the past 2 years have targeted people simply on the basis of their ethnicity and/or religious affiliation, and section 215 of the Act provides the basis for some of these practices. Such abusive and discriminatory practices don’t make our country any safer, just less free.” She concluded, “Arab Americans are among the groups most vulnerable to abuses of this kind, and these unconstitutional provisions of the Act must be challenged to defend their basic rights.”