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April 9, 2003

April 9, 2003 | News Releases on

We Can Fight Terrorism And Protect Civil Liberties, Analyst Tells Congress

WASHINGTON, APRIL 9, 2003-Pundits often portray the battle between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties as a zero-sum game, with one task strengthened only at the expense of the other. But we can do both, a legal scholar at The Heritage Foundation told Congress today-provided lawmakers rely on fundamental legal principles.

"New systems for gathering intelligence, enforcing the law and deciphering information can and should be constructed in a manner that fosters both civil liberty and public safety," Paul Rosenzweig testified before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

One way to do that, he said, is to set clear guidelines for any new governmental powers. Rule No. 1: "No fundamental liberty guaranteed by the Constitution can be breached or infringed upon," Rosenzweig warned. In addition, Congress should examine any proposed intrusions into privacy and ensure they're necessary and as limited as possible. And any new intelligence system must be designed for the long term, since the war on terrorism is one with no foreseeable end.

To do all this, Rosenzweig said, Congress must maintain strict oversight, assessing each program and proposal on its own individual merits. That includes the controversial Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, which Rosenzweig said Congress should consider more carefully.

"TIA isn't the Big Brother program some have warned us about," he said. "It's about providing better tools to enable intelligence analysts to more effectively and efficiently analyze the vast pool of data already at their disposal." TIA won't harm civil liberties if Congress crafts it carefully and maintains strict oversight of the program, he testified.

That means limiting the government's access to non-governmental databases, limiting who has access to information, distinguishing between domestic and foreign activities and imposing tough legal penalties for TIA abuses, he told lawmakers.

The federal government must also make sure its domestic and international intelligence agencies tell each other everything they know. This seems fundamental, but would mark a change from recent history. Since Sept. 11, "the artificial limitations we have imposed on information sharing are a relic of a bygone era," Rosenzweig testified. As with TIA, he said, the correct response is expanding the power of intelligence agencies to collect and share information, while maintaining strict congressional oversight of those agencies to prevent abuses.

Finally, Rosenzweig urged Congress to "sunset" any new law enforcement or intelligence systems. That means the new laws would expire after a given period of time, unless Congress acted to reauthorize them. Doing so would ensure oversight, and would allow Congress to review entire programs frequently, to make sure they were effective and were not infringing on civil liberties.

A transcript of Rosenzweig's testimony is available online at Research/HomelandDefense/TST040903.cfm.

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