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Civil liberties - Florida

  • Assessing Florida's Anti-Terrorism Capabilities Recommendations. On Sept. 14, 2001, Gov. Jeb Bush formally directed the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) to immediately complete a comprehensive assessment of Florida's capability to prevent, mitigate, and respond to a terrorist attack. Among the many recommendations made was the following (Section 7, Long Term): "Consider options to allow law enforcement to detain for a reasonable period of times those individuals suspected of terrorist activities or involvement." While tightening security is necessary, giving the state broad powers to detain (jail) individuals without charges or due process of law infringes on U.S. Constitutional freedoms and rights. [click here for the 13-page list of recommendations]

    Recommended action: Write to Governor Bush in support of maintaining Constitutional rights and due process of law. Addresses and telephone numbers for state and federal elected officials are below.

  • Florida Executive Order #01-300 -- Statewide Domestic Security Intelligence Database. "Citing Potential for Abuse, ACLU of Florida Asks Governor to Postpone Plans for Statewide 'Intelligence' Database." Press release, October 19, 2001. Contact: Larry Helm Spalding, ACLU Legislative Staff Counsel, Tallahassee, Florida

    Citing great 'potential for misuse' in the creation of intelligence files on Floridians, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today asked Governor Jeb Bush to postpone the implementation of a statewide intelligence database to monitor 'domestic security.' In a letter to the governor sent today, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon outlined concerns with a provision of Executive Order #01-300, issued by Gov. Bush on Oct. 11, that directs the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to "establish a dedicated Statewide Domestic Security Intelligence Database for use by all Florida law enforcement officers under appropriate security."

    The ACLU asked that implementation of the plan be postponed until the law enforcement officials can be directed to develop standards that ensure that only information about suspected criminal activity is entered into the database. "America has seen the creation of intelligence files on ordinary citizens not for their involvement in suspected criminal activity, but for activities that are lawful and fully protected under both the United States and Florida Constitutions," wrote Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. "When law enforcement databases and intelligence files include information on individuals because of their political beliefs or activities, or their association with dissident causes, core First Amendment values are violated."

    In the letter, the ACLU also urged the Governor to refrain from creating exemptions to the Public Records Act and to instead seek authorization from the Florida Legislature, as required by the Florida Constitution, which would permit public debate. "There is grave danger in governing by executive order," said Simon. "When the legislature is excluded from exercising its proper oversight responsibilities, and there is no opportunity for appropriate public input, democratic principles are jeopardized."
    Recommended action: Write to Governor Bush in support of maintaining Constitutional rights and due process of law. Addresses and telephone numbers for state and federal elected officials are below.
Civil liberties - national

  • USA Patriot Act signed into law.
    -- TNJP summary

    On Friday, October 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law the "Uniting and Strengthening America Act by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001," also known as the USA Patriot Act. Many members of Congress along with the ACLU and American citizens have expressed concern that this act will lead to infringements upon civil liberties and personal freedoms protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

    The Fourth Amendment protects "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." While enhanced security and a more conscious effort by the Nation's law enforcement agencies are obviously required after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act goes far beyond what is necessary to protect Americans from further terrorist attacks.

    Federal officials will henceforth possess the power to obtain wiretapping orders on any phone that a person suspected of being a terrorist may use. Federal officials will be able to obtain nationwide search warrants for monitoring e-mail, conducting physical searches, and obtaining information from computers, billing records, and voice mail records. The act sets an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2005, for the new wiretapping and surveillance powers.

    The USA Patriotic Act allows the government to detain foreigners suspected of terrorism and to begin deportation proceedings, during which the foreigner must stay in federal custody for a maximum of seven days, unless charged with a crime. The new law does not define terrorist or terrorism, but assumes the definition stated in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d) statute contains the following definitions:

    • The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
    • The term "international terrorism" means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.
  • The term "terrorist group" means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism. The US Government has employed this definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes since 1983.

As American citizens, we should be aware of this new law and its affect upon your civil liberties. A person suspected of a terrorist act - or even behaving in what may be viewed as a "suspicious" manner can fall victim to these new surveillance powers. "These new and unchecked powers," said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU's Washington Office, "could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General."

An analysis of the USA Patriot Act's provisions related to expanded surveillance of online activities may be found at the Electronic Frontier Foundation website.

Recommended action: Please contact your congressional representatives and urge them to monitor federal and state agencies in their pursuit of terrorist and terrorist organizations, ensuring that American citizens and residents are not harassed and victimized by the new law. If we are not aware and vigilant, our rights as American citizens may be subverted in the name of security.

Contract your Congressional Representatives:

2252 Killearn Center Boulevard, Suite 300
Tallahassee, Florida 32309
phone 850-907-1100
TDD 850-894-2882
fax 850-894-3222

U.S. Courthouse Annex
111 N. Adams Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 942-8415
(850) 942-8450 (Fax)

301 South Monroe Street, #108
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 561-3979
Fax: (850) 681-2902
Monday-Friday 8:30-5:30

  • "ACLU Deeply Disappointed With Passage of Anti-Terrorism Bill; Decries Deeply Flawed Legislative Process"
    Source: The American Civil Liberties Union, Wednesday, October 24, 2001.
    Contact: Larry Helm Spalding, ACLU Legislative Staff Counsel, Tallahassee, Florida.

    WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the 66 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the final version of anti-terrorism legislation, saying that they acted bravely to preserve civil liberties in America in the face of enormous pressure from the Bush Administration. "This legislation is based on the faulty assumption that safety must come at the expense of civil liberties," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office. "We can be safe and fight terrorism without substantially surrendering our civil liberties."

    In a letter to the full House, which adopted the legislation by a vote of
    357 to 66, Murphy said the USA Patriot Act (HR 3162) would give enormous, unwarranted power to the executive branch unchecked by meaningful judicial review. Most of the new powers, the ACLU said, could be used against American citizens in routine criminal investigations completely unrelated to terrorism. "These new and unchecked powers could be used against American citizens who are not under criminal investigation, immigrants who are here within our borders legally and also against those whose First Amendment activities are deemed to be threats to national security by the Attorney General," said Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU's Washington National Office.

    With House offices closed and staff unable to access their papers, Murphy said that the process that brought the final version of the bill to the floor is deeply flawed and an offense to the thoughtful legislative process necessary to protect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. "In past times of tragedy and fear, our government has harassed,
    investigated and arrested people solely because of their race, religion, national
    origin, speech or political beliefs," the ACLU said. "We must not allow that to happen again even as we work together to protect ourselves from future terrorist attacks."

    Anti-Terrorism Bill passes House and Senate. Congress has passed the US Patriot Act (Senate Bill 1510 and House Bill 3162) extending the policing powers of the FBI, Department of State, and the INS, among other provisions. Unless reinstated by Congress in 2005, some of the bill's provisions (e.g., extended surveillance authority) will expire. The US Patriot act also allows the federal government to seize assets of groups supporting international causes that the U.S. Secretary of State deems to be terrorist in nature. Participants and supporters of may be charged with terrorist offenses. The government need not disclose evidence if it decides that such evidence would compromise national security.

    You can find more information the act at the Thomas website by searching for Senate bill 1510 and House Bill 3162.

    Recommended action: Make your opinion known about this far-reaching legislation by immediately contacting your elected officials. Addresses and telephone numbers for U.S. Senators Graham and Nelson from Florida, and U.S. Representative Boyd from Florida are below.

International developments

There are no bills pending in Congress to limit military action against Afghanistan. You can nevertheless express your views to Congressional representative and senators.

See Networking links (peace and justice organizations) for sample letters.

Contact information for public officials

Click here for governmental links, including United Nations agencies, Congressional legislation, White House and executive agencies, governmental departments.

Addresses of local interest:

Congressman Allen Boyd
107 Cannon HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515
Tel: 202 225 5235
FAX: 202 225 5615

Senator Bob Graham
504 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel:202 224 3014
FAX: 202 224 2237

Senator Bill Nelson
716 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
Tel:202 224 5274
FAX: 202 228 2183

Governor Jeb Bush.....488-4441
Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan.....488-4711

State Senator Al Lawson.....487-5004
State Senator Richard Mitchell.....487-5017
State Rep. Bev Kilmer (district 7).....488-2873
State Rep. Curtis Richardson (districk 8)....488-1798
State Rep. Loranne Ausley (district 9).....488-0965
State Rep. Will S. Kendrick (district 10).....488-7870


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Last modified on June 15th, 2007