WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), today unanimously approved her bipartisan legislation (S. 2536) to further protect the civil rights and civil liberties of Americans. The Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protection Act of 2004, sponsored with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), would ensure that officials within the Department of Homeland Security have the ability to balance public safety with the civil right and liberties that are so important to Americans.
“In focusing our attention on protecting the homeland from future terrorist attacks, we also must ensure that we do not trample on the very values that the terrorists seek to destroy,” said Senator Collins. “The Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protection Act reinforces our nation’s cherished belief that we do not need to sacrifice effective protection of civil rights in the name of terrorism prevention.”
“As we work to improve the security of our homeland, we must also be sure to protect civil liberties and privacy. This legislation will go a long way toward ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t approach civil liberties as an afterthought,” said Senator Wyden.
The Collins-Wyden legislation ensures continued senior level status of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer and the Privacy Officer, and it clearly defines the roles and duties of these officers. In addition, it ensures coordination between these officers and the Inspector General. Finally, the bill creates a new position within the office of the Inspector General whose responsibility would be to oversee civil rights and civil liberties cases that are referred to this office.
The bill also would amend the Department of Homeland Security’s mission statement to include the protection of civil liberties and civil rights as priority for the Department and its activities.