Liberty Threat and Anti-Terrorism Bill

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 00:59:17 -0400 (EDT)

You can find contact information for your Senators and Representatives at

Please pass this statement and sample letter on to your members and friends -- urging them to contact members of Congress immediately -- since a new draft of the bill is now being negotiated.

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Statement:

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Voices Serious Concern that New Counter-Terrorism Bill Could Give Attorney General Unprecedented Powers to Detain Non-Citizens

For more information, please contact Susan Benesch:

September 27, 2001

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government has the authority, indeed the duty, to take every reasonable step to ensure security for everyone in the United States. As one of its first official responses, the Bush Administration has proposed counter-terrorism legislation for fast-track approval by Congress.

One of the most controversial measures included in the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 gives the Attorney General sweeping new powers and unprecedented discretion to detain non-citizens indefinitely and without meaningful judicial review.

The Lawyers Committee is deeply concerned about these provisions. Many Members have expressed reservations about these proposals and are currently working on a compromise. We urge Congress to immediately take the necessary steps to amend this proposed legislation, to ensure basic due process of law.

Potential Consequences of This Law

Under the proposed immigration provisions in this bill, the federal government would be empowered to detain any non-citizen, including legal permanent residents, if the Attorney General has certified that he or she is a "threat to national security." The Attorney General could make this designation if he has "reason to believe" that a person may engage in, further, or facilitate terrorist activity, or otherwise "endanger the national security."

The Administration's proposal would give the U.S. government sweeping, unchecked powers. As outlined, the proposed bill:

  • Allows indefinite detention.
  • Allows the government to detain individuals without charging any crime or even an immigration violation.
  • Provides no meaningful opportunity for a hearing to determine the reason for an individual's detention.

These legal powers are unprecedented in American history.

Beyond the corrosive effects on our own systems of due process and judicial oversight, this proposed legislation, if enacted, will clearly be copied elsewhere. As the United States seeks to promote freedom and the rule of law globally, it is essential that we promote these values here at home.

What You Can Do

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 is now being debated in Congress and it is on a fast track. Congress is likely to vote on this bill in the next week to ten days. Please write immediately to your congressional representatives in the House and Senate. Urge them to ensure that the new law guarantees due process. Here is what you should say:

Dear Member of Congress:

I write to express my concerns about provisions of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which would allow the indefinite detention of non-citizens. I recognize the need for our government to take every reasonable step to ensure the physical safety of everyone in this country. It is essential however that the U.S. stay true to the very principles that are central to its national identity: checks and balances, fairness, and due process.

Some provisions of the proposed legislation grant sweeping new powers to the Attorney General without providing for meaningful judicial review. These legal powers would be unprecedented in our nation's history.

I urge that Congress not enact these troubling provisions. In the event the Congress does move forward with these or similar provisions, I urge that any new law ensure that:

  • These decisions are reviewed by an independent judge.
  • Immigrants are not detained indefinitely without charge.
  • Decisions to detain non-citizens are made based on a recognized standard of evidence.

Thank you for you careful attention to these very important issues.


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