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First Amendment
Hearing About Feds Hearing Too Much 

Following reports of the Bush administration's surveillance of Americans, the American Civil Liberties Union of Greater Pittsburgh will host a town-hall meeting on Thu., July 20. Locals will not only voice their concerns, but also to learn how to fight back.

 

Most recently, in mid-June The New York Times and other papers reported the administration's classified program to troll through financial transaction records processed by a Belgium-based banking consortium. White House officials maintain this will help track down terrorists.

 

For Greg Nojeim, the national ACLU's legislative counsel and associate director, this latest revelation smacks of other recent civil-rights trespasses, such as the use of warrantless wiretaps by the National Security Agency, and the administration's obtaining domestic phone records.

"The thing that brings them together is the notion of this president who seems to think he is above the law," says Nojeim, who will address the gathering. "The trends we see here in [Washington,] D.C. are to hold him accountable" ... or almost accountable. In late June, the U.S. House of Representatives came within six votes of cutting off funding to NSA's wiretapping program.

 

"We're hoping this to will an old-fashioned town hall meeting where people express their sense of outrage," says Barb Feige, director of the local ACLU. "People need an outlet."

 

City Councilor Doug Shields (D-Squirrel Hill), the other featured speaker, laments how far the U.S. has strayed from its founding ideals. "What we have going on today in this country is absolutely abysmal," he says.

 

To Nojiem, anyone who shares this dim view also shares the responsibility to appeal to their congressional representatives for greater civil-rights protections.

"Until Congress steps up to the plate," he says, "Americans can't take practical steps to prevent such illegal conduct."

 

Thu., July 20, 7 p.m., First Unitarian Church, 605 Morewood Ave., Shadyside.

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