CONTACT: Richard Sincere
(Washington, D.C., July 1, 2002) — A self-described "broad coalition [of] conservative, religious, libertarian and other organizations," that invited Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL), a libertarian advocacy group, to participate in its efforts has now removed GLIL because GLIL’s members are mostly gay men and lesbians.
The ad hoc coalition, led by the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, circulated a draft letter addressed to U.S. Representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, on June 10, which included GLIL’s signature. After objections from members of the Free Congress Foundation’s "broad base," according to the Foundation’s vice president, Lisa Dean, GLIL’s signature was excised. That "broad base" is made up primarily of religious-right organizations and individuals, said GLIL President Richard Sincere, who added: "Their base may be ‘broad’ but their minds appear to be narrow."
"Lisa Dean told me that there was no policy disagreement involved," Sincere said. "She made it clear that GLIL’s name was removed solely because our members are gay and lesbian."
Sincere pointed out that the coalition included such disparate groups as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Gun Owners of America. "GLIL members have a stronger commitment to the First Amendment than the ACLU. (GLIL and the ACLU were on opposite sides in the Supreme Court’s gay scoutmaster case; GLIL argued in an amicus curiae brief that the Boy Scouts had a constitutional right to exclude gay troop leaders, despite GLIL’s disagreement with that policy.) Like our comrades, the Pink Pistols, we’re as strongly committed to the Second Amendment as Gun Owners of America."
The letter to Chairman Sensenbrenner expressed concerns that new FBI guidelines issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft "will usher in an invigorated campaign against lawful dissent and religious expression." It adds: "The First and Fourth Amendments and the system of checks and balances established in our Constitution should not be undermined under the guise of mendacious explanations for failure."
"We and the Free Congress Foundation, like other coalition members, are natural allies. We want to protect citizens against government intrusion and limit the scope of government. Our commitment to the Bill of Rights and individual liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution is not in question," said Sincere. "From a freedom of association standpoint, the Free Congress Foundation may exclude us from participating in their coalition. But when they do so for petty and childish reasons, they have no right to escape embarrassment and public scrutiny. By choosing to narrow the pro-liberty coalition, the Free Congress Foundation undermines its own cause — our cause."
Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty was founded in 1991 to advance the ideas of economic and personal freedom and individual responsibility. For more information, including GLIL’s brief in the Boy Scouts’ case and GLIL’s opposition to the FBI’s "Carnivore" program, visit www.glil.org or www.gayliberty.org.
A copy of the letter to Congressman Sensenbrenner, with a list of signatories as of June 10, 2002, is attached to this news release.
June 18, 2002 [signatures accurate as of June 10, 2002]
Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on the Judiciary
2138 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Sensenbrenner:
On behalf of a broad coalition ranging from conservative, religious, libertarian and other organizations, we want to congratulate you for taking the initiative to protect our Constitutional rights and liberties regarding the recent decision of the Attorney General to loosen the guidelines restricting the surveillance of religious and political organizations in the United States.
Given the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s actions under the old guidelines, we are concerned that the new era will usher in an invigorated campaign against lawful dissent and religious expression.
During the previous Administration, the American people witnessed an FBI that routinely overstepped the boundaries of its authority by eroding the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Under Attorney General Reno, the FBI targeted religious groups as well as pro-life and pro-Second Amendment organizations and labeled them as likely to commit acts of terror. That created a mindset within the agency that those who previously have stood for American ideals, are now seen as potential terrorists.
In 1999 the FBI released a report to all state and local law enforcement authorities entitled "Project Megiddo." The report aimed at increased surveillance of individuals and groups "who profess an apocalyptic view of the millennium or attach special significance to the year 2000." This was a clear example of unwarranted surveillance of those citizens who profess strong religious beliefs, oppose United Nation’s policies, are pro-Second Amendment or pro-life.
A product of the Project Megiddo report was the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force flyer put out by the Phoenix office a few years ago instructing law enforcement officers to report individuals who are "’defenders’ of the US Constitution against federal government" and others.
Unfortunately, even under a new administration, the same mindset exists within the FBI. That mindset revealed itself after the horrific events of September 11th when Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced sweeping new changes within the agency. What that meant and what it should have meant are very different. It should have meant a change from the "Reno mindset" within the FBI to a more traditional mindset where the real suspects are targeted as opposed to innocent American citizens.
We understand that law enforcement is under pressure to prevent terrorism from ever again occurring on American soil but to toss out our Constitutional rights must not be the way to proceed. The lower standards for surveillance of religious activities and political expression has the effect of casting a wider net for information when most analysts cite the inability to analyze the available information as contributing to the intelligence failure regarding the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. The emphasis now should be on the processing of information into meaningful analysis and a more directed focus of accurate information gathering. More importantly, conclusions must be based on the information gathered rather than information gathered to fit already drawn conclusions.
The First and Fourth Amendments and the system of checks and balances established in our Constitution should not be undermined under the guise of mendacious explanations for failure. We are concerned that lowering the surveillance standards would cause such a system of checks and balances to implode. "If it looks bad, it’s bad for the FBI" is a motto that invites trouble and after September 11th and the negative press that the agency has endured, it is also one that will undoubtedly be taken more seriously. [The new guidelines should explicitly prohibit agents from acting outside the boundaries of the law in order to apprehend or persecute a suspect, however innocent, in order to make the agency look effective. There should be no objection to a specific prohibition on investigators acting as agents provocateur or encouraging others to violate the law in order to make cases that would not otherwise have existed.]
Furthermore, since the changes only apply to domestic guidelines and not foreign, these changes would have done nothing to prevent the horrific events of September 11th had they been in place. However they will target American citizens when, in fact, surveillance efforts ought to be focused on foreign nationals and visitors to the U.S.
We would be happy to work with you and your staff on this issue. If you would like, please contact J. Bradley Jansen at the Free Congress Foundation at 202-204-5324 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President for Policy
Free Congress Foundation
William J. Murray
Religious Freedom Coalition
Jane Orient, MD
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons
Gun Owners of America
Director, Government Relations
Arab American Institute
Vice President for Government Affairs
Family Research Council
Amit A. Pandya
Open Society Policy Center
President and Founder
God Bless America
Larry Cirignano, Esq.
Founder and Director
CASPIAN – Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering
Editor & Publisher
The Multiracial Activist
F. Paul Valone
Executive Director, Rights Watch International
President, Grass Roots North Carolina
Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty
The Whalen Consulting Group
Square One Media Network
Libertarian Party of the District of Columbia
Family Protection Lobby – Maryland
Montana Libertarian Party
Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty was founded in February 1991 to advance the ideas of economic and personal freedom and individual responsibility. It has members across the United States and in several foreign countries. For more information, visit http://www.glil.org or telephone 202-903-5555.