The Legal Talk Network's Coast to Coast, with my co-host, Robert Ambrogi brings into focus a discussion of the Patriot Act up for debate as some of the provisions are set to expire December 31st. Although designed to give federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies tools in the fight against terror, some say civil liberties are being violated.
Our guests include former FBI agent and now candidate for Congress, Coleen Rowley, who talks about the front-line need for information balanced with the protection of rights. From the time she was eleven years old, Coleen was determined that she would one day become an FBI agent. Then, in 2002, she exposed lapses in the investigation of suspected Al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui and also testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee about some of the endemic problems faced by the FBI and the intelligence community. In April 2003, following an unsuccessful attempt to warn the Director and other administration officials about the dangers of launching the invasion of Iraq, she "stepped down" from her legal position and returned to being an FBI Special Agent. She also warned of the potential excessive National Security Letters. In 2004, Coleen retired from the FBI. She is presently running for Congress in Minnesota and speaks publicly on ethical decision-making and balancing civil liberties with the need for effective investigation.
Our second guest is Attorney Jameel Jaffer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who is currently counsel for plaintiffs in challenges to the provisions of the Patriot Act. Jameel Jaffer is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union and has litigated several significant cases involving government secrecy and national security. Mr. Jaffer is currently counsel to the plaintiffs in Doe v. Gonzales, a constitutional challenge to the FBI's authority to issue "national security letters" in foreign intelligence and terrorism investigations. The district court struck down the national security letter statute in September 2004 and Mr. Jaffer recently defended the district court's decision in argument before the Second Circuit. Mr. Jaffer is also counsel to the plaintiffs in MCA of Ann Arbor v. Ashcroft, a challenge to section 215 of the Patriot Act, another controversial surveillance authority. Finally, he is counsel to the plaintiffs in ACLU v. Department of Defense, litigation under the Freedom of Information Act that has resulted in the release of thousands of documents concerning the interrogation, abuse, and torture of prisoners held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. Mr. Jaffer is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School. He was an editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1997 to 1999 and his writing has appeared in that journal as well as in the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy. After law school, Mr. Jaffer served as law clerk to Hon. Amalya L. Kearse, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then to Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada.