Expanded 'Counter-Terrorism' Powers Unnecessary and Dangerous
Washington, DC (December 6, 1995) -- "The only Americans who have any need at all for sweeping new 'antiterrorism' legislation are politicians desperate to boost their ratings back home before Congress adjourns for the year," noted John Flannery, co-chair of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers' (NACDL) Legislative Committee, at a Capitol Hill press conference organized by a broad-based coalition of groups opposed to legislation the House is expected to take up early next week.
"Federal law enforcement agencies already have all the power they need to halt terrorism in the United States. They have more power than they can handle," Flannery, a criminal defense lawyer in Leesburg, Virginia, said. "The abuses inflicted on ordinary Americans at Waco and Ruby Ridge made that all too clear."
"The 'Comprehensive Antiterrorism Act' needlessly compromises the privacy of all Americans, opens the door to increased use of the military against civilians, threatens to infect the criminal justice system with secret procedures, and grants new powers to agencies that have demonstrated their inability to properly use those they already have. And it chokes off federal review of sentences, including death sentences, presumably to execute more people faster. It deserves to be called the "Tap 'Em, Entrap 'Em, and Zap 'Em" bill," he declared.
"Before Congress confers even more power upon the FBI, the ATF, over 50 other federal law enforcement agencies, to the military, and to the President, I urge legislators to weigh more carefully what such wholesale expansion of government authority will really mean for the safety, privacy, and freedom of our citizens," Flannery cautioned.
"At a minimum, Congress must address -- in a meaningful rather than a political way -- the serious issues raised by Waco, Ruby Ridge, and other cases where federal law enforcement agencies have injured innocent citizens while abusing the vast array of powers they now have," he added. "We underscored the urgent need for increased oversight of law enforcement activities in the letter this coalition sent to congressional leaders several weeks ago."
Flannery referred to the letter sent to House and Senate leaders on October 24, 1995, by the coalition including NACDL, the National Rifle Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Second Amendment Foundation, National Black Police Association, and nine other groups from across the political spectrum. The letter addressed several categories of lawless or abusive behavior by federal law enforcement agencies and urged specific reforms, including a national commission to comprehensively review law enforcement policies and practices.
"We're waiting for a response," Flannery said. "Meanwhile, conferring still greater powers on these very agencies is an open invitation for even more devastating abuses of American citizens."
The full text of John Flannery's statement, detailing NACDL's criticism of the antiterrorism bill, will be available at the press conference at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, December 6, 1995 at the ACLU's office, 122 Maryland Avenue, NE, Washington, DC; it is also available, upon request, by fax in advance of the press conference.
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