Volume 8.18 September 24, 2001
Published by the
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Special EPIC Alert
In the days following September 11, Congress moved quickly to show
support for the President and granted him certain authority to pursue
military matters on behalf of the country. Congress then worked to
provide financial support for rebuilding after the tragedy. Then
Congress acted to improve airline safety, ensure aid to the airline
industry, and begin to restore American confidence in air travel.
Now it may be appropriate for Congress to take a breath before it
tackles the subjects contained in the various bills that will be
circulating on Capitol Hill this week. Unlike the earlier measures
that responded to the immediate crisis, the topics under consideration
this week -- immigration policy, criminal law, electronic
surveillance, and intelligence gathering -- sweep broadly into other
areas and run the risk, particularly at this point in time, of
chipping away rights that safeguard all Americans
In the area of electronic surveillance, Congress should proceed
particularly carefully. There are now a mix of provisions that, if
taken together, would allow more people in government to monitor more
electronic communications of Americans for more reasons under a lower
legal standard than is currently permitted under law. And this new
statutory authority would be broadly exercised in cases completely
unrelated to terrorism.
So, for example, the police could now use "Carnivore" to routinely
capture clickstream data from Internet users -- including the web
sites visited and the pages downloaded -- under the same low standards
that currently permit government access to telephone numbers dialed.
Another provision would significantly expand the use of electronic
surveillance for computer crime investigations. Still another makes
it easier to seize voicemail.
It may be appropriate for Congress to act on a few matters quickly --
improving border security and ensuring adequate resources for
translation and interpretation -- but the vast majority of legislative
recommendations now being faxed around Washington create sweeping
surveillance authority without justification. The adoption now of any
new law enforcement powers unrelated to the investigation and
prevention of terrorist acts should be opposed.
Electronic Privacy Information Center
"But, in a time of widespread anxiety, it is harder to fend off the
siren song of fear sung by those who would have us trade in a little
liberty for a little more safety. There is no such thing as a little
liberty. Before you know it, you don't have any, and America is no
longer the shining beacon of equality and freedom that terrorists
--Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 16, 2001
"Last week's terrorist attacks caught the United States painfully
unprepared. Whether the carnage was preventable or not, this tragedy
-- and the glaring intelligence failures that let it happen -- must
not be used as a pretext for measures that endanger the fundamental
freedoms that are our birthright. Yes, tough and pragmatic laws are
needed to prevent terrorism and espionage. And that should include
keeping closer tabs on visitors to our country. But terrorism will
have won if those laws unnecessarily fetter the fundamental civil
liberties that have distinguished the United States from the rest of
--Baltimore Sun, September 19, 2001
"There is general acknowledgement that society's delicate balance
between freedom and security will tip toward greater security at the
expense of individual liberties. But the exact spot along that
continuum where Americans will tolerate restrictions on their freedoms
-- and where they will resist -- has not yet been located. Vigilance
will be needed to make sure that the precious freedoms central to the
American idea are not eroded by equally necessary new safety
--Boston Globe, September 20, 2001
"The true measure of the effectiveness of this attack by a shadowy,
hate-filled enemy will lie in how we reassess ourselves and our place
in the world, and how we redefine, as inevitably we will, the balance
between individual liberty and collective, national security. If we
lose our liberties in the name of safety, the terrorists will have
won. That cannot, must not, happen."
--The Buffalo News, September 16, 2001
"[C]ivil libertarians have good reason to be wary of proposals to
expand the government's power to go after suspected terrorists. In
wartime, some people consider basic rights a luxury we can do without.
. . . At times like this, any ideas to help law enforcement against
terrorists deserve consideration--and careful inspection to ensure
that they will hamper our enemies more than they will hurt our
--Chicago Tribune, September 20, 2001
"[T]he terror attack unleashed on America must not become an excuse
for suspending basic American principles and values. . . . Special
care should be taken to ensure that ethnic profiling of people of Arab
or South Asian background is used judiciously and sparingly by
law-enforcement officials. The hunt for suspected terrorists or
terrorist sympathizers can't justify a descent into unjust police
methods. Wars sometimes occasion a lapse in democratic processes, and
the situation following the Sept. 11 attacks is being characterized as
'war.' This must not mean a lapse in basic civil liberties, or in the
civility with which all people are treated in the US."
--Christian Science Monitor, September 18, 2001
"Although more value does need to be placed on low-tech human
intelligence gathering, other tools of eavesdropping need to be used
while balancing the civil liberties of Americans. Proposals to grant
intelligence agencies more latitude need to be revisited and debated."
--Dallas Morning News, September 17, 2001
"[A] frightful picture is emerging. It seems that American leadership
has resolved the tension between security and freedom by giving
security the priority. Without a debate over how far we can
jeopardize our freedom in pursuit of security, we seem to be inclined
toward doing whatever it takes to feel safer. . . . Imagine being
stopped by a police officer for speeding and when he asks you for your
ID, you reveal not only your name and address but also your religion,
your ethnic and national origin, your financial record, and police or
immigration record if any. This is not only a form of profiling but
also an invitation for discrimination. The smart cards, if
implemented, would be the end of privacy. . . . We must act now. I
invite all who are concerned about our freedoms and the quality of our
civil society to let Washington know our concerns now."
--Detroit Free Press, September 18, 2001
"Historically, it has been at times of inflamed passions and national
anger that our civil liberties proved to be at greatest risk, and the
unpopular group of the moment was subject to prejudice and deprivation
--Detroit News, September 21, 2001
"[W]e must uphold our values and protect our constitutional rights.
While retaliating for last week's attacks and upgrading our
intelligence and national security, we must be sure to maintain the
important principles - of civil liberty, ethnic and religious
tolerance, and freedom of expression - that are the foundation and
strength of our nation. If we allow terrorists to alter our values or
way of life, we hand them a victory."
--Indianapolis Star, September 16, 2001
"It is one thing to pass emergency legislation; quite another to make
it a permanent part of our law. Any congressional enactment should
come with a sunset provision, requiring the law to lapse after two
years unless it is reenacted. During the interim, Congress should
create a bipartisan commission to consider the fundamental questions
at stake. Then, we can consider more permanent legislation after the
initial panic has subsided. We have used similar devices in the past.
. . . This time, our tradition of civil liberties is being placed at
risk, and there are special reasons that make a sunset provision even
more appropriate. The most obvious is the rush with which the
legislation is being pushed through Congress. . . . The rise of
terrorism undoubtedly requires a serious debate over the proper
balance between liberty and security in the 21st century. But
Congress should not provide permanent answers when we have not even
begun to ask the right questions."
--Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2001
"Do Americans really think well of the 'whatever-it-takes' battle cry?
They shouldn't. There are all sorts of 'whatevers' this country could
but shouldn't embrace to fight terrorism. It could unleash police to
search apartment blocks where immigrants are known to live -- hoping
to root out a terrorist needle in the haystack. It could scrap the
rule that suspects be told of their rights to a lawyer and to remain
silent -- hoping that hapless confessions of terror plots will follow.
It could jail suspicious foreigners for weeks -- hoping that
incriminating evidence might eventually show up. Many Americans
recoil at the thought of such blunt tactics, even if they can't say
why. They sense something un-American about combating terrorism by
scrapping the rule of law. They see the folly of defending the land
of the free by shrinking its freedoms. . . . Even if Congress
subscribes to the 'whatever-it-takes' philosophy, it's not clear this
[recently introduced] legislation should pass. The White House has
made no case that existing law enabled last week's attack or hindered
the ensuing investigation. Nor has it established that squelching
civil liberties is a wise response to the threat of terror. In truth,
forsaking American freedom is precisely the wrong answer to the fear
terrorists sow. It gives them the victory they seek. It flouts an
article of American faith: that just as some sacrifices must be made
in safety's name, others must never be made."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 21, 2001
"[O]ur constitutional freedoms may be about to face their most
serious test in several generations. We can't protect ourselves from
suicide bombers by blindly surrendering our liberty. To do so would
only ensure the victory of fanaticism."
--The New Republic, September 24, 2001
"There must be an exacting examination of how the country can face
this threat without sacrificing its liberties. . . . Americans must
rethink how to safeguard the country without bartering away the rights
and privileges of the free society that we are defending. The
temptation will be great in the days ahead to write draconian new laws
that give law enforcement agencies - or even military forces - a right
to undermine the civil liberties that shape the character of the
United States. President Bush and Congress must carefully balance the
need for heightened security with the need to protect the
constitutional rights of Americans. That includes Americans of
Islamic descent, who could now easily became the target for another
period of American xenophobia and ethnic discrimination."
--New York Times, September 12, 2001
"If the idea takes root that civil liberties should not be permitted
to stand in the way of a war on terrorism, at what point do security
measures start to corrode the very society they are designed to
protect? . . . [it has been said that] Americans would accept neither
identity cards, so reminiscent of the domestic passports that people
associate with totalitarian states, nor the common European practice
of closing a street at both ends and checking everyone there for
immigration violations. Where does a democratic society draw the
--New York Times (Associated Press), September 16, 2001
"Unshackling the nation's intelligence agencies will be a more complex
task, not least because it will run into a dilemma: At what point will
the government's powers of investigation and security expand so much
that they begin to erode the civil rights defining a free society -
giving terrorists a moral victory? The balance between security and
freedom is delicate and hard to restore when collective fear tips it
toward greater government control."
--Newsday (New York, NY), September 18, 2001
"[T]he United States Senate already has acted precipitately, passing
legislation Thursday evening that enables the FBI to obtain warrants
for electronic surveillance of e-mail and other computer
communications more easily. That initiative, which may result in
severe abrogations of individual rights, is probably the harbinger of
a wave of new restrictions and invasions by government. . . . [B]efore
we assent to any such infringements, we ought to consider how little
has been done to ensure our safety without affronting the
Constitution. . . . Nobody's freedom, for instance, would be harmed by
sealing the pilot's cabin against intruders well before takeoff, or by
installing signal devices that would instantly alert authorities to a
crime in progress. . . . Our leaders never tire of telling us that
America is the wealthiest, most technologically advanced nation in the
history of the world, as well as the most free. Now is the time to
tell them that we can afford to protect our people and our territory
without undermining our freedom."
--Salon.com, September 14, 2001
"If we sacrifice our civil liberties the terrorists will have won. We
must [act] in a way that preserves our civil liberties. It can be
--San Diego Union-Tribune, September 16, 2001
"In the heat of rightful, red-hot anger, this country may take actions
it will later regret. Congress is weighing a terrorist surveillance
package that clashes with personal liberty and encroaches on some of
our fundamental rights. This country is eager to move fast and hard
in response to the murderous attacks in New York and Washington. No
question, payback is due for the deaths and destruction, and this
newspaper supports a sustained and focused campaign to hunt down the
culprits. Yet members of Congress must keep their heads in this
moment of frustration and outrage. They need to ask tough questions
about each proposed expansion of law-enforcement powers. They need to
realize that the U.S. Constitution is worth defending too."
--San Francisco Chronicle, September 19, 2001
"To ensure that America's freedom remains strong, Congress should set
aside partisan bickering to help the president track down terrorists.
. . . Likewise, members of the Senate and House need to keep Bush's
words fresh in their minds when considering proposals to reduce
security threats. The constitutional and privacy protections of
law-abiding citizens ought not to be swept aside because of overly
broad or hastily adopted new laws. The country may need new laws to
help federal agents fight well-organized, tech-savvy terrorists. But
in the heartbreak over these evil deeds, lawmakers must take time to
discuss any actions limiting the freedoms that distinguish America."
--San Jose Mercury News, September 16, 2001
"'In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test
of its value is not in its taste, but its effects.'" I hope President
Bush, his inner circle and the members of Congress keep hearing
Fulbright's words echoing down the corridors now filled with
policy-making under duress. There must be room for constructive
questioning, even as those entrusted with grave decisions push quickly
to meet the national emergencies in this chilling autumn of 2001.
Witness, please, the rich potential to shape consensus without
abrogating basic democratic rights as Congress and the administration
work though the Bush administration's anti-terrorism proposals. . . .
Concurrent with Ashcroft's proposals, key lawmakers have acknowledged
that legislating in haste can be cause for irreparable damage to the
very rights with which America defines itself. Unlike the sudden,
transcendent disregard for budgets and the social programs that seemed
essential two weeks ago, the regard is high for protecting both
national security and the rights we enjoy as free people. . . . Just
powers are derived from the consent of the governed, whether in time
of war or peace."
--St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 21, 2001
"If we are to win the war against terrorism, we will need to employ
new weapons. Nevertheless, Congress must proceed very carefully as it
considers Attorney General John Ashcroft's sweeping proposals. Moving
too hastily or going too far could result in unwarranted curbs on
--Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, FL), September 21, 2001
"Celebrating the openness of our society, and its ability to
accommodate diversity without constantly coming to blows, is more
important now than ever. This is what the terrorists who have been
implicated in Tuesday's attacks do not understand about America, and
this is why they have chosen to attack us."
--The Times-Picayune (New Orleans), September 16, 2001
"Essential questions confront us, such as the degree of liberties we
will be willing to surrender in the name of security. The answers
will not come quickly or in unanimity. These rough roads ahead should
not be overlooked in the initial closing of ranks around President
Bush. But this struggle is what separates democracy from the world of
--USA Today, September 21, 2001
"This is complex legislation that, as Mr. Ashcroft himself has noted,
would affect civil liberties as well as law enforcement. The purpose
should be not to rush and rubber-stamp but to get the balance right.
That's particularly true of the proposals that would infringe on
--Washington Post, September 20, 2001
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