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OCTOBER 17, 2003
12:32 PM
CONTACT: Institute for Public Accuracy 
Sam Husseini (202) 347-0020, (202) 421-6858
David Zupan (541) 484-9167
Civil Liberties: A Sense of Crisis
WASHINGTON - October 17 - This weekend, hundred of grassroots activists and dozens of organizations are gathering for the "Grassroots America Defends the Bill of Rights" conference near Washington, D.C.

Among the groups participating are the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Library Association, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the National Lawyers Guild and People for the American Way. [Web page for the conference:]

Interviews are available with legal analysts and grassroots activists at the conference including:


Gage is director of the First Amendment Foundation, a key organizer of the conference. She said today: "This event represents an extraordinary collaboration and a turning point for the grassroots movement to defend the Bill of Rights."


Meserve -- an Arcata, Calif., city council member who helped pass one of the first ordinances opposing the "USA PATRIOT Act" -- will be honored at the conference.


In November 2001 a group of citizens in Northampton, Mass., formed the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and launched a national grassroots movement initiating the campaign for localities to declare themselves Civil Liberties Safe Zones. Since then, nearly 190 towns, cities and counties and three states have passed such resolutions. Talanian, director of the Committee, said today: "In six months, the number of resolutions has more than tripled." Among the group's specific concerns:

* The USA PATRIOT Act gives the FBI and the CIA greater rights to wiretap phones, monitor e-mail, survey medical, financial and student records, and break into homes and offices without prior notification. It creates a new crime of domestic terrorism that is so broadly defined that it may be applied to citizens acting legally to express their dissent.

* Under this Act and other legislation, noncitizens are being deported or detained indefinitely without judicial appeal. The dangers of the USA PATRIOT Act are augmented by a Bureau of Prisons order allowing federal agents to abridge the attorney-client privilege by eavesdropping on conversations between lawyers and their clients held in federal custody.

* The Justice Department has dismantled regulations against COINTELPRO operations that were enacted following governmental abuses against the civil rights and peace movements of the '50s, '60s and '70s.


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