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
"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
"If we do that, we will be dishonoring the many people who gave their
lives in order to let us have those freedoms."