Our community understands that, as all other Americans, Jews have a profound and direct stake in the war on terrorism.     As part of a global community that has been a target of hatred and attacks, we recognize that the safety of our society requires the physical security that government is created to provide.  Events in recent years have demonstrated the need to combat terrorism aggressively, and to provide law enforcement with the tools to tackle this complex threat.  Of equal importance is that the debate surrounding the war on terrorism and how it impacts individual liberties be focused, informed, and free from unnecessary invective.  

Most Americans want to maximize both security and civil liberties.  Members of the law enforcement community have stated an interest in further calibrating their anti-terrorism efforts so as to honor their commitment to civil liberties.  Some civil libertarians recognize that much of the USA PATRIOT Act is appropriate and does not unnecessarily conflict with civil liberties.  Security and the protection of civil liberties are not mutually exclusive. It is reasonable for Americans to expect to be secure from both physical harm and violations of their individual liberties.  

Many of the actions taken by Congress, the Administration, and law enforcement in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks represent reasonable responses to the terrorist threat.  Other actions have generated controversy because of their impact on civil liberties.  While some of these problems have arisen as a result of the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, many have resulted from the implementation or interpretation of laws that were already on the books, or in some instances, from actions undertaken with legal authority that some consider inadequate.  These include the use of enemy combatant status, expanded and secret detention, and provisions allowing, without court approval, eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations of suspected terrorists.

The USA PATRIOT Act, however, does, contain several provisions that potentially infringe on civil liberties.  They include provisions authorizing “sneak and peek” searches allowing federal agents to search Americans’ homes without notifying them for an indeterminate period.  Also of concern are Section 215 which allows law enforcement to access a wide array of personal information such as medical, business, library, education, and genetic records without cause; and Section 505 concerning National Security Letters, which allow the FBI to obtain confidential information from a person’s telephone company and internet service providers, banks, and credit reporting agencies by claiming only that such information is sought for an “ongoing investigation, and allows the FBI to do so without court oversight at any stage of the investigation.  All Section 215 orders include a permanent gag order, prohibiting any one who has been served with a such an order from ever revealing this fact.   JCPA reiterates its concern (adopted 2002 Plenum) regarding the indefinite detention, without judicial review, of non-citizens who are certified by the Attorney General as suspected terrorists, whether or not they are criminally charged.

The JCPA believes:

The community relations field should:

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