The American Civil Liberties Union recently announced the first-ever legal challenge of a provision of the U.S.A. Patriot act that allows federal authorities to demand individuals turn over “any tangible thing” without a warrent, and in total secrecy. The suit is let by attorneys from the Michigan state office. From their press release:
“Ordinary Americans should not have to worry that the FBI is rifling through their medical records, seizing their personal papers, or forcing charities and advocacy groups to divulge membership lists,” said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU and the lead attorney in the lawsuit.
“We know from our clients that the FBI is once again targeting ethnic, religious, and political minority communities disproportionately,” she added. “Investing the FBI with unchecked authority to monitor the activities of innocent people is an invitation to abuse, a waste of resources, and is certainly not making any of us any safer.”
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Significantly, the launch of the ACLU’s suit coincides with a Justice Department public forum set for tonight at Wayne State University in Detriot. The event appears to be a strategy by the Justice Department to ease rising public concern about its use of the PATRIOT Act and other post-9/11 anti-civil liberties measures.
As at similar events around the country, protesters are expected at the forum. The ACLU will also hold a media availability outside the forum venue featuring one of the litigators in the PATRIOT lawsuit and members of the state affiliate. Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D) – one of the main opponents of the Justice Department’s expanded surveillance and enforcement powers — will also be present.