Left and right join to protect rights

WASHINGTON: A broad-based coalition of advocacy and ethnic groups

came together last week to ensure that Americans don't lose their civil

liberties in the midst of a government crackdown on terrorism.



Calling itself In Defense of Freedom, the group will use public pressure

to prevent federal agencies from imposing unacceptable restrictions on

the private lives of citizens. Attorney General John Ashcroft responded

to the attacks by asking Congress for expanded access to credit card

information, student records, tax returns, and phone conversations.



The quickly formed coalition consists of such unusual bedfellows as the

liberal American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the conservative Free

Congress Foundation. Also climbing aboard are several Arab-American

groups, who fear they may be singled out for surveillance.



It is unclear yet what the group will be doing to achieve its goals, but

arousing public interest through the media is the method of choice so

far. After landing a prominent article in The New York Times last

Tuesday, the coalition followed up with a press conference at the

National Press Club on Thursday. It is also likely to be setting up an

online petition.



"If we sacrifice our liberties and constitutional rights, it is only

then that the terrorists win," said Brad Jensen, deputy director for the

Center of Technology Privacy, a division of the Free Congress

Foundation.



"If we do that, we will be dishonoring the many people who gave their

lives in order to let us have those freedoms."



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