Attorney General John Ashcroft attends a closed meeting with law enforcement officials to defend the Patriot Act against mounting claims that it undermines civil liberties. We host a debate between the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Attorney General John Ashcroft will arrive in New York City today to attend a closed meeting with law enforcement officials to build support for the controversial USA Patriot Act.
The visit is part of Ashcroft’s 16-city tour to defend the Patriot Act against mounting claims that it undermines civil liberties. The invitation-only sessions are closed to the public and are attended only by government employees and selected members of the press.
Protesters have shadowed Ashcroft’s appearance at every stop denouncing him and the law he helped create.
Passed 45 days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Patriot Act is a massive overhaul of government security procedures. Among other things, the 340-page law grants federal investigators authority to seek roving wiretaps for people and to conduct property searches and delay notifying the owner.
It also allows the detention of foreigners suspected of terrorism for up to seven days without being charged and expanded the definitions of terrorism.
Since then the Patriot Act has come under intense criticism.
In July the House voted 309 to 118 to overturn key provisions the Act.
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have filed lawsuits seeking disclosure of how the law is being applied. The suits also challenge provisions that permit "sneak-and-peek" searches and secret scrutiny of people’s library records by the FBI.
The fight isn’t just in Washington or the courts.
More than 150 communities across the country and three states have issued symbolic resolutions opposing the Patriot Act.
- Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is organizing a Bill of Rights Defense Campaign against the Patriot Act.
- Jack Martin, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).