NACDL President Warns Against Legislative Overreaction to Oklahoma City Bombing
Washington, DC (April 26, 1995) -- Gerald H. Goldstein, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), today warned members of Congress against using the tragic Oklahoma City bombing as an excuse for stampeding to enact "anti-terrorism" legislation that tramples basic American principles of due process and limited government power.
"The bills Congress is considering [S.390 and H.R.896; the "Omnibus Counterterrorism Act"] are not necessary. If these proposals become law, they will steal from each and every one of us the very constitutional liberties that separate us from those countries whose values we deplore," Goldstein said. "My heart goes out to all of the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. We are all deeply concerned about terrorism and its dreadful consequences, but do we really want the loss of our precious freedoms to be yet another consequence -- particularly while we're still in shock from this event?" he asked.
S.390, which the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider in a hearing tomorrow, would make it a criminal offense to provide financial support for the lawful activities of any group designated a "terrorist organization" by the President. Such designations would be conclusive and unreviewable by any court. The President could designate any alien residing legally in the U.S. as a "representative" of a "terrorist organization" and could deport that person based on secret -- even illegally obtained -- evidence that the government would not have to disclose, at proceedings at which neither that individual nor his or her attorney could be present.
"These are blatant denials of the constitutional rights of free association and speech, the right to confront the evidence against one, the right to be free from illegal searches, and the right to fundamental fairness," Goldstein pointed out. "Powers like these belong in a militarized society. The closest parallel is the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Some would use this tragedy to justify all manner of distortions of our constitutional system and society. We should proceed carefully and resist urges to adopt such sweeping laws that change the basic equation between government and citizen," Goldstein warned.