Bill of Rights Defense Campaign

BILL OF RIGHTS Defense Committee - Working with communities to uphold the Bill of RightsWe the People
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Sample Letter to Invite Community Members to Join Your Bill of Rights Defense Committee

(Distribute via mail, by hand, or via email to individuals or list serves)

(Name of Committee)
(Address)
(Date)

Dear Friend,

It is with a sense of urgency that we contact you.

Since the terrible attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, the Bush administration, with Attorney General Gonzales in the lead, has implemented legislation and executive orders that erode the checks and balances of our system of government and promise sweeping changes in our civil liberties and civil rights.

We are very concerned that the ability of citizens and non-citizens to speak, act, associate, assemble and maintain privacy is infringed by these actions. "Today again fear threatens reason. Aliens are imprisoned for months on the flimsiest of grounds. The attorney general of the United States moves to punish people on the basis of secret evidence, the Kafkaesque hallmark of tyranny," wrote Anthony Lewis of the New York Times in his farewell column in 2001.

We believe that we of (city or town), a city with a long-held and well-deserved reputation for commitment to social justice, should speak as a community about why it is not necessary to sacrifice fundamental freedoms of our democracy in order to successfully combat terrorism. We believe that we can be both secure and free.

We ask you to join us in the planning and building of a Forum in Defense of the Bill of Rights, (Date), at (Time) pm at (Location) in Northampton to discuss the effects of the new federal legislation, executive orders and intelligence regulations on our lives and those of our friends, citizen and non-citizen alike. We hope that it will become a starting point for action to protect our rights and perhaps a model for other communities.

Here are our concerns:

On October 26, 2001 President Bush signed into law the USA PATRIOT Act. Passed hurriedly (many Congressmen stated later they had not even had time to read the law) it creates a new crime, "domestic terrorism", so broadly defined that it could conceivably apply to acts of civil disobedience. Persons associated - through membership dues or legal activity - with organizations defined as terrorist are subject to surveillance and may themselves face prosecution.

The USA PATRIOT Act gives the FBI and the CIA greater rights to wiretap phones, monitor e-mail, survey medical, financial and student records, and break into homes and offices without prior notification.

Under this Act and other legislation, non-citizens can be deported or detained indefinitely without judicial appeal.

The dangers of the USA PATRIOT Act are augmented by a Bureau of Prisons order allowing federal agents to abridge the attorney-client privilege by eavesdropping on conversations between lawyers and their clients held in federal custody. Attorney General Ashcroft proposed the dismantling of the Justice Department's regulations against the COINTELPRO operations so abusive of the civil rights and peace movements of the 50's, 60's and 70's.

Possibly most frightening, the Administration has ordered secret military tribunals for suspected terrorists. "Would you want a member of your family, from Canada, say, to be tried by one of these ad hoc tribunals, which do not have to follow the Constitution, the federal rules of evidence, or legal precedent? Would you want her tried by a court that assumes she is guilty before she is tried, tries her in secret, and sentences her to death on a mere two-thirds vote, with no right to appeal?" asks Mt. Holyoke constitutional law professor Christopher H. Pyle.

These are the threats. One immediate reality is that an estimated 1,100 non-citizens have been arrested and are still being detained without charges since September 11, and the administration continues to fight public requests for basic information about them.

All of us abhor terrorist acts but agree with the law enforcement experts, including some prior FBI directors, who have stated publicly that the new laws and orders go far beyond equipping the nation with the capacity to deter or punish horrors such as September 11.

In the wake of the frightening violence, we are being swept into national decisions that we may all live to regret. We must resist intimidation or complacency. We must respond clearly to those who speak of the "necessities of war" and make exclusive claims on the definition of patriotism. As thinking people in a democratic society, we must speak out to maintain the fundamentals - though often imperfectly applied - of that democracy.

Again to quote Anthony Lewis: "Freedom under law is hard work. If rulers cannot be trusted with arbitrary power, it is up to citizens to raise their voices at injustice. The most important office in a democracy, Justice Louis Brandeis said, is the office of citizen."

Please join us in a response.
Become an endorser of the (Date) Forum in Defense of the Bill of Rights by signing the enclosed form and mailing to the (Name of Committee) (Address) or (Email).

Join us at our next planning meeting (Date, Time, Location). RSVP below.

Put out the word about (Date) Forum in your newsletter, list-serve, next organizational meeting or religious gathering.

Sincerely,

(Names of Initial Committee Members)


I/my organization wishes to endorse the _____________ Forum in Defense of the Bill of Rights, (Date).

Name ________________________Organization __________________________

Address ___________________________________________________________

Phone________________ Email _______________________________________
A $10 donation is suggested. Make checks out to (Name of Committee).

I/my organizational representative plans to attend the (date of next) meeting.
Return form to (Name and address)


I/my organization wishes to endorse the _____________ Forum in Defense of the Bill of Rights, (Date).

Name ________________________Organization __________________________

Address ___________________________________________________________

Phone________________ Email _______________________________________
A $10 donation is suggested. Make checks out to (Name of Committee).

I/my organizational representative plans to attend the (date of next) meeting.
Return form to (Name and address)


I/my organization wishes to endorse the _____________ Forum in Defense of the Bill of Rights, (Date).

Name ________________________Organization __________________________

Address ___________________________________________________________

Phone________________ Email _______________________________________
A $10 donation is suggested. Make checks out to (Name of Committee).

I/my organizational representative plans to attend the (date of next) meeting.
Return form to (Name and address)