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'Patriot 2' Raises Concerns for Civil Liberties Groups -- 02/13/2003

'Patriot 2' Raises Concerns for Civil Liberties Groups
By Lawrence Morahan Senior Staff Writer
February 13, 2003

( - Legal watchdog groups that had concerns about the USA Patriot Act, a labyrinth anti-terrorism bill passed in the wake of 9/11, have even more concerns about its successor, the so-called USA Patriot 2.

"We thought Patriot 1 was bad enough; Patriot 2 seems to be even worse," said Lisa Dean, vice president of the Center for Technology Policy with the Free Congress Foundation.

Last week, the Center for Public Integrity released a draft "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," a confidential version of a bill that would grant the government sweeping new powers in intelligence gathering and surveillance.

The Justice Department's draft of a second round of law enforcement and domestic security measures would allow intelligence surveillance even when the government could not produce any evidence of a crime, legal analysts said.

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said the massive USA Patriot Act, an acronym for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism, "was one of the greatest invasions of civil liberties I've ever seen as an attorney."

However, "this latest volley from [Attorney General] John Ashcroft is very, very dangerous to civil liberties," Whitehead said. "It shows that Ashcroft doesn't care about the Bill of Rights."

Whitehead said his main concern was that the act proposes to strip U.S. citizens of their citizenship if they belong to or even support a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The new proposal allows for American citizens to be expatriated if they are convicted of giving material support to a group that's designated a terrorist organization.

"The definition for 'terrorist organization' is so large that it could include the National Rifle Association, Amnesty International and Greenpeace," Whitehead said.

In addition, suspects who don't cooperate with police in giving DNA samples, for example, can be charged with a misdemeanor.

The bill would create a new exemption to the Freedom of Information Act, which already allows the suppression of documents that might compromise national security, analysts said. It would leave the government less accountable and more prone to abuse, they said.

Under the proposal, the bill also would prohibit the release of names of people being detained on suspicion of terrorism. Releasing the names of terrorist suspects could alert other terrorists, the Justice Department contends.

Leading Democrats also condemned the proposed legislation. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said any sequel to the USA Patriot Act "should be open and accountable."

"It should not be shrouded in secrecy, steeped in unilateralism or tinged with partisanship," Leahy said in a statement.

"For months,...Justice Department officials have denied to members of the Judiciary Committee that they were drafting another anti-terrorism package. There still has not been any hint from them about their draft bill," he said.

"The contents of this proposal should be carefully reviewed, and the public must be allowed to freely engage in any debate about the merits of any new government powers the administration may seek," he said.

The Justice Department told the Center for Public Integrity, which leaked the document, that the bill contained no final proposals.

Dean said coalition groups concerned about civil liberties infringements in the draft bill will meet Friday to discuss an opposition strategy.

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

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