Position on Terrorism and Civil Liberties

JSPAN POLICY PAPER - January, 2004 As members of a minority that has been the victim of terrorist attacks and government oppression over many years in many places, we Jews living in America have a unique and special interest in the rise of terrorism in the United States and abroad. We care deeply about our Government's response to the new wave of terrorism, and the preservation of our civil liberties in the course of responding to terrorism both forcefully and effectively. As Jews, we understand that when we deny anyone's civil rights, especially those of another minority, our civil rights are threatened. As Jews we know that destroying hard won and protected civil rights destroys efforts to repair the world - Tikun Olam. We understand why, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, our Government felt compelled to respond at any cost. But it is clear, now that the smoke has cleared and our Government's response can be examined in the calm and clear light of day, that the costs imposed by the enactment of the USA Patriot Act and other actions taken by our Government in its war on terrorism are not merely high or even excessive. Certain aspects of our Government's response are self-defeating. These attempted defenses themselves undermine our freedom and threaten the very way of life we are seeking to preserve, protect, and defend. As Benjamin Franklin explained: Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. Our position: Clamping down on "terrorists" (and others) held by the government in secret detention will not make us safe. Letting accused prisoners have counsel and a fair trial does not advance terrorism, it protects freedom. We do not need to throw away our civil liberties in order to fight terrorism - other nations are doing it every day. Especially, we do not need to broaden the Patriot Act. Rather, we need to install an independent monitor -- not the Justice Department -- to watch over the Administration's use of the Patriot Act, and to report to Congress and the public, for a sufficient period to permit important conclusions to be drawn about these unprecedented powers. Take Action-Write Your Congressional Representative! (sample letter) Additional Resources: What the New York Times says about the Patriot Act (August, 2004) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- For more information or to get involved with this or any JSPAN Policy Center, e-mail jspan@jspan.org.