Don’t fight terrorism at cost of civil rights: Kerry
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Senator John Kerry has said that the rights guaranteed by the US constitution must not be taken away in the fight against terrorism.
According to the Democratic presidential front-runner, “We must never forget that the rights guaranteed us in the Constitution are precious, and one of the very first things that the terrorists we are fighting would destroy. We do not need to give away our personal liberties to protect our country. We must defend our freedoms and defend ourselves against terrorism.”
Mr Kerry says Attorney General John Ashcroft has taken away far more liberties than this the Patriot Act ever authorised and that is wrong. He points out that the Bush administration does not have the authority to indefinitely detain US citizens as enemy combatants without charging them with a crime and without allowing them access to an attorney or any judicial review.
The senator from Massachusetts said, “I am outraged that the Justice Department has required tens of thousands of Muslim and Arab visa holders - students, workers, researchers, and tourists - to register with the government and be fingerprinted and photographed. This sweeping plan, proposed without any consultation with Congress, does little to provide real protection against terrorism. Instead it stigmatises innocent Muslims and Arabs who pose no danger, and discourages those who want to support our law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts.”
He said he strongly supports the inclusion of a “sunset provision” in the Patriot Act, which will cause the law to expire unless Congress re-authorises it. The Bush administration, he added, reportedly plans to introduce a second Patriot Act. “We have learned from the first Patriot Act that the last thing we need is John Ashcroft rewriting the Bill of Rights. I am alarmed by what has been reported to be part of Patriot Act II and I will very carefully review any new proposal and fight to ensure that it does not violate civil liberties.”