The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) applauds the Highland Park Borough Council for its unanimous vote in support of a Pro-Civil Liberties Resolution adopted at the Council meeting last night.
The Resolution calls upon the Highland Park Borough Council to affirm its commitment to securing national security, but without sacrificing the fundamental civil rights and liberties upon which our country has been founded. For example, it calls upon law enforcement officials to give advance notice to individuals before executing a search warrant, and to make sure that a person is not subjected to a criminal investigation based solely on race, religion, or ethnicity.
By passing this resolution, Highland Park Borough has become the third New Jersey community – following Willingboro and Princeton – to pass a resolution in reaction to the federal government’s controversial USA PATRIOT Act.
Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act just 45 days after the September 11 attacks, with virtually no debate. This 342-page piece of legislation allows for the broadest expansion of police and law enforcement powers in the recent history of our country. Some of the most troubling provisions of the Act enable the FBI to access private records, including medical records, library records and student records, without the need for a warrant or establishing probable cause that a crime has occurred or is about to occur. A “gag provision” within the Act makes it so that the person searched may never learn that he or she has been the subject of government surveillance.
In the two years since the passage of the Act, numerous lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, have condemned some of the Act’s most far-reaching provisions and have called for closer scrutiny into how the government uses its expanded powers.
On a grass-roots level, over 235 communities and three states have passed resolutions condemning the Act. The Highland Park vote has come at a crucial time, as President Bush presses to extend the surveillance provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act beyond 2005 when they’re scheduled to sunset. The Highland Park Borough resolution, which will be sent to Senators Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, urges them to ensure that the “provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act that are schedule to expire on December 31, 2005, do expire without extension.”