ACLU Briefing on Legislative Priorities by Mitch E. Perry11/13/06
The 109th Congress returned back to work today in Washington. Theyâ€™ll be in session for several weeks before ending early next Month.
Today the ACLU held a conference call to alert citizens of the issues that they are concerned will come up in these last few weeks of the current congress, and their hopes and expectations for a Democratic led Congress on some major issues starting in January.
Caroline Frederickson is the Director of the ACLUâ€™s Washington Legislative Office. She acknowledges that Iraq was the biggest issue on voters minds, but added that civil liberties also played a major role in last weekâ€™s midterm elections. Frederickson says the voters were sending a message to the Bush Administration that they donâ€™t like how theyâ€™ve gone about their business..(roll tape#1 o.q.â€?matter to votersâ€?)
Frederickson mentioned the Montana U.S. Senate race as one example of Civil Liberties perhaps making the difference in a close contested election (roll tape#2 o.q.â€?Americans are the enemyâ€?)
Earlier this year, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had secured the cooperation of several large telecommunication companies in its efforts to eavesdrop without warrants on international phone calls made by suspected terrorists.
That has led to a variety of lawsuits by various parties against the phone companies. And itâ€™s also led to proposed congressional legislation that would immunize those phone companies from any investigations. Tim Sparapani is the legislative director with the ACLU. He says his message to the lame duck Congress is simple when it comes to ending these investigations (roll tape#3 o.q.â€?no ornaments on a treeâ€?)
As for as the just elected 110th Congress, which will begin its work in January, the ACLU is putting great hopes that some of the most egregious actions by the previous Congress and the President can be reversed. Among those items theyâ€™d like to rescind include the recent passage of the detainee bill that critics simply called â€œThe Torture Billâ€?, which also rescinded the use of habeas corpus for enemy combatants. The ACLUâ€™s Caroline Frederickson (roll tape#4 o.q.â€?a successful effortâ€?)
The ACLU also has hopes that there will be serious oversight of the Bush Administrationâ€™s warrantless wiretapping program, what they call the torture policies under Donald Rumsfeld, the Patriot Act, and racial profiling.
But before getting to the 110th, the ACLUâ€™s Caroline Frederickson worries that this still active Congress wonâ€™t be too productive in this lame duck session (roll tape#5 o.q.â€?the bills that moveâ€?) The ACLU says it hopes to provide as much legal analysis as possible to some new Democrats who be joining certain Committees.