Dissent Is Patriotic
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee's e-mail newsletter
April 2, 2004, Vol. 3, No. 3
- Taking Stock
- The Patriot Act and Information Sharing; Retuning the Debate; Continuing to Reach Out
- BORDC-Tacoma (WA) Opposes Private Detention Facility, by Tim Smith
- Legislative Updates
- Supreme Court: Rallies April 20 and 28
- Charles Levendosky, columnist and First Amendment champion, dead at 67
- On Campus: Foreign student fees for surveillance
- BORDC announces its advisory board
The combined accomplishments of thousands of community groups and organizations have placed 49 million people--17 percent of the U.S. population--in "civil liberties safe zones." Twenty-four of the 50 most populous U.S. cities are among the 275 cities, towns, and counties and four states that have passed resolutions. Their work has helped shift public opinion about the Patriot Act and other antiterrorism measures and policies in communities nationwide and in Washington, DC. Comparisons between USA Today/CNN/Gallup polls taken in August 2003 and February 2004 show a steady decrease in public approval of the Patriot Act. A study published in March by the Council for Excellence in Government called America Speaks Out About Homeland Security (PDF) shows that the American people have reservations about the government using their personal information.
Even the Department of Justice (DOJ) is starting to listen to the public: On March 21, 2004, Chuck Rosenberg, the chief of staff to the DOJ's Deputy Attorney General, admitted that the public's support of the Patriot Act is waning. At a panel in St. Louis following the passage of that city's resolution, Rosenberg acknowledged that his department is "losing this fight" to justify controversial parts of the Patriot Act.
This issue of the newsletter suggests opportunities and strategies for building on our success in this election year.
Information Sharing. A recent column by Maureen Dowd of the New York Times reports a phone call that Richard Clarke, former Bush Administration advisor on terrorism, received on September 11 from Dale Watson, FBI chief of counterterrorism. "We got the passenger manifests from the airlines," Watson said. "We recognize some names, Dick. They're al Qaeda."
Said Clarke, "I was stunned, not that the attack was al Qaeda but that there were al Qaeda operatives on board aircraft using names that FBI knew were al Qaeda."
The revelation that thousands of lives might have been spared had the FBI and CIA shared this relevant information has renewed the Bush Administration's call for such information sharing--as justification for the Patriot Act. No one who opposes parts of the Patriot Act has argued against such sharing, which was allowed under pre-9/11 policies. Agency culture and the FBI's inadequate data sharing system continue to stand in the way. Be prepared to address such arguments as the Administration dodges meaningful debate about Patriot Act critics' real concerns such as Section 215 and sows confusion in the public's mind.
Retuning the Debate. A technique to draw more people into the debate is to focus on the outcomes of changes in laws and policies, rather than on the complicated laws themselves. In the two and a half years since September 11, 2001, widespread predictions and fears about the Patriot Act and other antiterrorism measures and policies have proven true: Despite the Bush Administration's unprecedented use of secrecy and its denials that its measures compromise civil liberties, the public has seen enough evidence to recognize that the government has used the new measures to target innocent people on the basis of racial and ethnic profiling and those who criticize government policy. U.S. antiterrorism policies cannot succeed unless U.S. residents and U.S. allies understand and support them. Alienating and targeting innocent people and denying them due process in the name of fighting terrorism is also counterproductive. Those who believe in fiscal discipline should know that the U.S. wasted more than $360 million in 2003 alone on just one failed policy, the NSEERS (Special Registration) program, which did not identify a single terrorist among the 87,000 men who voluntarily appeared for photographing, fingerprinting, and questioning.
For other ways to evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. antiterrorism laws and policies, read this article.
Continuing to Reach Out. The successful resolution of the present struggle for civil liberties depends upon effective, ongoing outreach. The Lane County Bill of Rights Defense Committee's pamphlet, How Much Time Do You Have for the Bill of Rights? (PDF) is full of good suggestions, whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours. BORDC has put together a list of suggestions for outreach before, during, after or instead of passing a resolution. We welcome your suggestions for future issues and the www.bordc.org website. Here are a few highlights:
- Build bridges to threatened communities. Widespread detentions, deportations, mistreatment, and a backlash against citizens and noncitizens of Arab, Muslim, or South Asian descent have widened existing gaps between these targeted populations and the rest of our society, at a time when we need to come together. To help communities bridge these gaps, BORDC recently put together a web page of suggestions for making connections. Please also see our list of links to organizations that assist Arab and Muslim people or that foster greater understanding.
- Reach out to Spanish-speaking communities. To help inform Spanish speakers of threats to liberties, BORDC now has an En Espaņol page of documents and fliers in Spanish.
- Is there a detention facility in your region? Is a private facility being built? Read the following article about what the Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma is doing to oppose a nearby privately owned detention center that will house hundreds of people targeted for deportation.
- Engage candidates for local, state, and national office with questions on where they stand on civil liberties issues and what actions they will take, if elected, to preserve and restore those rights and liberties. Get copies of the oaths of office they must take, and use them to reinforce the candidates' obligations, if elected, to uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
by Tim Smith
In December 2003, after a yearlong campaign by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma, the city council passed a resolution in defense of the Bill of Rights. Following that victory, the BORDC-Tacoma discovered that a 500- to 800-bed Northwest Detention Center is to open on April 14 on a Superfund site in the City of Tacoma, where it will house immigrants about to be deported. The for-profit Correctional Services Corporation based in Sarasota, Florida, owns the camp and operates it under a lease agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a new component of the Department of Homeland Security. Several similar detention centers are opening up around the country. Private centers are more difficult to hold accountable to U.S. laws and standards than government-run facilities.
Under new U.S. immigration policy, individuals can be detained until the status of their immigration violation is determined. Because of these sweeping changes in immigration policy, problems associated with for-profit prisons, and the dangers of placing a residential facility on an EPA Superfund site, BORDC-Tacoma mobilized to oppose the new facility. We began an immediate action directed at focusing various local, regional, and national groups concerned about post 9/11 immigration policies, environmental, prison, and labor issues on stopping the opening of this camp. Legal action is pending, and efforts to influence the City Council are underway.
Tim Smith is chairperson of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee-Tacoma.
Here are brief updates on four pieces of legislation.
- Civil Liberties Restoration Act
- Freedom to Read Protection Act and SAFE Act
- International Studies in Higher Education Act
The first is expected to be introduced soon; the others are before Congress. For a more complete list of proposed legislation that may restore or roll back civil liberties, visit BORDC's legislation page.
Co-sponsors of the Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) are in the final stages of decision-making regarding its provisions, and the bill may be introduced in late April. BORDC invites all groups who are concerned about government excesses in the name of fighting terrorism to read this summary of the bill (PDF) and consider supporting it.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the National Immigration Forum, and the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC) plan to distribute the following materials in time for groups to assess their support and prepare for a strong show of support from across the nation upon the bill's introduction:
- Final bill contents
- Materials for advocates and press
- A sign-on letter for organizations
- A section-by-section analysis
If you or someone in your network would like to organize a local press event on or around the introduction of this bill, the local contact for advocacy around CLRA is Shoba Sivaprasad at the National Immigration Forum, which is preparing materials specifically to assist local groups with press events and working closely with local groups interested in the CLRA. You may also contact Doug Rivlin. If your national organization wants to support the bill, please contact Katherine Newell Bierman at NAPALC.
Freedom to Read Protection Act (HR 1157, Senate Companion Bill S 1507) and SAFE Act (HR 3352, S 1709)
is circulating this petition (PDF) urging congressional reprentatives to amend Section 215 of the Patriot Act to restore privacy of library and bookstore records. The campaign goal is to deliver one million signatures to Congress. Sign the petition online. The readerprivacy.com web site is a rich source of information on Section 215 and the Bill of Rights. To place the button link on your web site, go to http://www.readerprivacy.com/?mod[type]=link_to_us.
Both the Freedom to Read Protection Act and the SAFE Act would amend Patriot Act provisions that allow the FBI to obtain library and bookstore records with limited judicial oversight. The SAFE Act would also amend or curtail other controversial Patriot Act sections that curtail liberties without making us safer, such as roving wiretaps and delayed notification known as "sneak and peek" search warrants. In Congress, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a press release supporting the SAFE Act, "As we protect and defend the American people against terrorism, we must protect and defend the Constitution and the civil liberties that define our democracy. When Congress voted for the Patriot Act, it was clearly understood that the Patriot Act was intended to combat terrorism. Now that we have had time to assess how the Patriot Act is being used, it is clear that Attorney General John Ashcroft has misused the Patriot Act for investigations that have nothing to do with terrorism. We should not simply extend it, but we should correct it to prevent abuses of our civil liberties."
International Studies in Higher Education Act (HR 3077)
On October 21, 2003, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3077, also known as the International Studies in Higher Education Act. If it is passed by the Senate, the Act would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 by establishing an International Higher Education Advisory Board. The Advisory Board would make recommendations to improve federally funded international studies programs on university campuses "to better reflect the national needs related to the homeland security, international education, international affairs, and foreign language training." The Board will include two members of national security agencies. The proposed legislation also directs the Secretary of Education, along with the Advisory Board, to study "foreign language heritage communities" within the United States, "particularly such communities that include speakers of languages that are critical to the national security of the United States."
In the Senate, the bill has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. For a good summary of problems associated with this legislation, and what you can do, see this web site.
Supreme Court: Rallies April 20 and 28
Imprisonment of two U.S. citizens as "enemy combatants" in a U.S. military brig and of more than 600 foreign nationals at Guantánamo Bay naval base have been among the most embarrassing and least understood Bush Administration strategies for combatting terrorism. In the past month, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; John Hutson, former Rear Admiral and Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy; and Major Michael Mori, a U.S. military lawyer who is representing Australian detainee David Hicks have all spoken against the Guantánamo Bay prison and the military tribunals. Their statements are in BORDC's Guantánamo Bay Prison Update.
On April 20, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether Guantánamo Bay detainees have the right to pursue their release through U.S. courts. On April 28, the Supreme Court will hear arguments as to whether the open-ended detentions of U.S. citizens Jose Padilla and Yasser Esam Hamdi are constitutional.
Join the rallies in front of the Supreme Court on April 20 and April 28. For information about the rallies, read this announcement and sign-on statement.
Charles Levendosky, columnist and First Amendment champion, dead at 67
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee sadly notes the passing of Charles Levendosky, poet, editor, and eloquent defender of First Amendment rights. BORDC's web site has cited several Levendosky columns in the Casper, WY, Star Tribune, where he was editorial page editor. Columnist Nat Hentoff said of Levendosky, "It's one thing to have the passion and the concern with keeping the liberties that the administration keeps telling us they're fighting to preserve against the terrorists, but it's quite another -- and it's much more rare -- to have somebody who writes about that with such meticulous care as to facts and the kind of research he did." For more, read this obituary or visit Levendosky's website, First Amendment Cyber Tribune (FACT).
On Campus: Students protest fees charging foreign students for their own surveillance
Several college campuses and universities are imposing fees on international students to cover the students' own surveillance costs, as mandated by the Department of Homeland Security Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Last year students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison organized and successfully defeated a university policy which would have charged each international student $125 for his or her own surveillance. UW students won the support of the student government, the Madison City Council, and the community. University of Massachusetts-Amherst students are similarly campaigning to end the policy of charging $65 to international students. The UMass students are waging a public campaign, with rallies and protests, and many international students are refusing to pay the fee. These students risk being withdrawn from the University, reported to the Department of Homeland Security, and deported.
BORDC recommends finding out whether your campus is charging international students to pay for their own surveillance, and creating a broad coalition to organize against these unfair fees.
BORDC announces its advisory board
BORDC is pleased to announce its advisory board*:
- Lois Ahrens, Real Cost of Prisons Project
- Michael Avery, National Lawyers Guild
- Lynne Bradley, American Library Association
- Nancy Chang, Center for Constitutional Rights
- David Cole, Georgetown School of Law
- James X. Dempsey, Center for Democracy & Technology
- Chris Finan, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
- Kit Gage, National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom, First Amendment Foundation
- Nat Hentoff, columnist
- Jeanne Herrick-Stare, Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Hasan Mansori, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
- Kate Martin, Center for National Security Studies
- Nancy Murray, ACLU of Massachusetts
- William C. Newman, ACLU of Massachusetts Western Mass. Regional Office
- Elaine Scarry, Harvard University
- Shoba Sivaprasad, National Immigration Forum
- David Sobel, Electronic Privacy Information Center
- Chris Townsend, United Electrical Workers Union
- Howard Zinn, historian
Vanessa Bliss departs
BORDC bids a fond farewell to staffperson Vanessa Bliss. Since late July, Vanessa has been the primary contact for people and groups who have contacted us for information, advice, and assistance. She has also written articles for this newsletter and resources for the bordc.org web site. We wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.
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Editor: Nancy Talanian, Director
Managing Editor: Vanessa Bliss
Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Inc.
8 Bridge St., Suite A
Northampton, MA 01060
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