European Security Organization Criticizes
U.S. Surveillance Law
VIENNA (The Santa Fe New Mexican / January 23, 2003) - The media watchdog
in Europe's leading security organization criticized the United States
on Thursday for snooping on the private lives of Americans with a law
passed in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In a reproach to the Big Brother-like tactics creeping up on post-Sept.
11 America, Freimut Duve of the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe condemned the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization
Service for monitoring library records and bookstore receipts under the
USA Patriot Act.
The act granted sweeping powers to obtain personal information about
U.S. citizens in an attempt to stop future terrorist attacks. Though
sympathetic to such concerns, Duve said it was evolving into an unprecedented
attack on freedom to read.
" This goes much too far," he said. "It may invite other
governments to do the same."
Duve sought an explanation in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Noting that secrecy surrounds the act itself, Duve said Powell should
clarify the U.S. position.
Duve presented his concerns to a meeting of the Vienna-based OSCE and
won support from the European Union nations and Russia.
The U.S. deputy chief of mission to the OSCE, Douglas Davidson, argued
the Patriot Act sets boundaries for intrusions, giving access to such
information only in the event of an investigation into international
terrorism or clandestine intelligence.
"Judicial safeguards and oversight remain in place to prevent the
abuse of this authority," Davidson said in a statement. "This
legislation has a very narrow focus and can only be implemented in specific
and narrow cases after judicial review."
It was not the first time Duve has complained about activities in the
United States. He has criticized White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
for advising Americans to "watch what they say."
"This kind of thing can't be said by a spokesperson of one of the
oldest democracies in the world," he said. "Impossible!"
The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the Patriot Act in
U.S. courts, demanding the government produce records on how often such
searches are conducted.
Though the OSCE is powerless to actually force any change in American
law, Duve hopes his criticism will help spark debate on the issue. He
is also looking into similar situations in some Western European countries,
though he did not name which ones.
The 55-nation OSCE largely monitors human rights and elections across
Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. But as an OSCE
member, the United States is also subject to its scrutiny.
Because the United States is known for its democratic freedoms, Duve
said the law sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of thought worldwide
by inviting other countries to do "similar things."
"We are not here just to criticize the post-communist countries," he
said, "and be silent on the others."