The New York Civil Liberties Union today urged all local citizens and organizations concerned about the loss of essential rights and freedoms to make themselves heard, peacefully but distinctly, when U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft brings his “Patriot Act road show” to Buffalo on September 8th.

“The Attorney General is touring the United States in an unprecedented effort to make the Orwellian U.S.A. Patriot Act more palatable to Americans” stated Jeanne-Noel Mahoney, Executive Director of the Western Regional Office of the NYCLU.

"The ACLU, NYCLU's parent organization, filed a lawsuit in federal court July 30th, against Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, charging that portions of the Patriot Act are unconstitutional. This lawsuit comes amid growing concern nationwide about the scope and potential harm of the Patriot Act and related policies," Mahoney continued. "Three states and 158 cities, towns and counties across the U.S. have already deemed the Patriot Act so threatening to American’s civil liberties that they have enacted resolutions condemning all or part of it for infringing on the Bill of Rights. Yet, here we have the Attorney General of the U.S., on an obviously politically motivated but taxpayer-funded tour, mostly of states that are key to a Bush win in the 2004 presidential election, speaking to closed audiences composed mainly of law enforcement officials, defending the most drastic attack on the Bill of Rights and civil liberties in U.S. history,” she added.

The USA PATRIOT Act was enacted in a panic just 45 days after the September 11 attacks, with virtually no debate. Many parts of this sweeping legislation take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect. For example, without a warrant and without probable cause, the FBI now has the power to access your most private medical records, your library records, and your student records -- and can prevent anyone from telling you it was done.

Mahoney stated, “Lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, are now beginning to rethink the PATRIOT Act. An overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives just voted to bar the Justice Department from executing the "sneak and peek" provision of the law that allows secret searches of homes and businesses. We at the NYCLU feel as strongly as any Americans that perpetrators of terrorism must be brought to justice, but we also feel that America's freedom, which is the very essence of our national character, must be protected as our country responds to the threat of domestic terrorism."

That is why we are calling for all individuals and organizations to join with us on the morning of September 8th to stand together and exercise our constitutionally protected freedoms. We must let the Attorney General know we will not tolerate the further erosion of our rights."

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