DOJ's Anti-Terrorism Law Would Dismantle Civil Liberties

Legislate to Improve Security Not Eliminate Freedoms
Electronic Frontier Foundation
For Immediate Release: September 19, 2001
Contacts: Shari Steele, EFF Executive Director,, Lee Tien, EFF Senior Staff Attorney,

Also check:
New Wiretap Bill Would Threaten Privacy and Free Expression (Sep. 19, 2001)
DRAFT EFF Analysis of SA 1562, Subtitle B
This is an incomplete draft, and will be both expanded and corrected over the next few days.


San Francisco, California - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today criticized the "Mobilization Against Terrorism Act" proposed by the US Department of Justice because many provisions of the law would dramatically alter the civil liberties landscape through unnecessarily broad restrictions on free speech and privacy rights in the United States and abroad.

EFF again urged Congress to act with deliberation in approving only measures that are effective in preventing terrorism while protecting the freedoms of Americans.

Attorney General John Ashcroft distributed the proposed Mobilization Against Terrorism Act to members of Congress after Monday's press conference at which he indicated that, among other measures, he would ask Congress to expand the ability of law enforcement officers to perform wiretaps in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Ashcroft asked Congress to pass anti-terrorism legislation including "expanded electronic surveillance" by the end of this week.

EFF believes this broad legislation would radically tip the United States system of checks and balances, giving the government unprecedented authority to surveil American citizens with little judicial or other oversight.

One particularly egregious section of the DOJ's analysis of its proposed legislation says that "United States prosecutors may use against American citizens information collected by a foreign government even if the collection would have violated the Fourth Amendment."

"Operating from abroad, foreign governments will do the dirty work of spying on the communications of Americans worldwide. US protections against unreasonable search and seizure won't matter," commented EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien.

Additional provisions of the proposed Mobilization Against Terrorism Act include measures which:

* Make it possible to obtain e-mail message header information and Internet user web browsing patterns without a wiretap order

* Eviscerate controls on roving wiretaps

* Permit law enforcement to disclose information obtained through wiretaps to any employee of the Executive branch

* Reduce restrictions on domestic investigations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

* Permit grand juries to provide information to the US intelligence community

* Permit the President to designate any "foreign-directed individual, group, or entity," including any United States citizen or organization, as a target for FISA surveillance

* Prevent people from even talking about terrorist acts

* Establish a DNA database for every person convicted of any felony or certain sex offenses, almost all of which are entirely unrelated to terrorism

EFF Executive Director Shari Steele emphasized, "While it is obviously of vital national importance to respond effectively to terrorism, this bill recalls the McCarthy era in the power it would give the government to scrutinize the private lives of American citizens."

Ashcroft's proposed legislation comes in the wake of the Senate's hasty passage of the "Combating Terrorism Act" on the evening of September 13 with less than 30 minutes of consideration on the Senate floor.

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil liberties organization working to protect rights in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and challenges industry and government to support free expression, privacy, and openness in the information society. EFF is a member-supported organization and maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the world:

The proposed Mobilization Against Terrorism Act:

EFF analysis of the Mobilization Against Terrorism Act [coming soon]:

Attorney General John Ashcroft remarks on response to terrorism from FBI headquarters on September 17, 2001:

The Combating Terrorism Act (S1562) passed by the Senate:

Senator Leahy's testimony on the Combating Terrorism Act:

EFF analysis of the Combating Terrorism Act:

Why "backdoor" encryption requirements reduce security:


Back to September 11 Main Page