Opposing Secret Evidence Repeal
Jewish Week, N.Y., February 11/2000
Embarrassed Jewish Groups Prefer To Avoid Publicizing Their Involvement In Arguing Against Due Process
Jewish groups were scheduled to weigh in this week before a House panel against a measure repealing controversial provisions of a 1996 anti-terrorism law.
The original law allows the Immigration and Naturalization Service to detain and deport people on secret evidence if any are suspected of terrorism. According to the Arab-American Institute, some 20 of Arab descent are now being held based on such evidence.
The Secret Evidence Repeal Act, sponsored by Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) and Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.), would remove those provisions from the law.
Jewish groups concede there may be problems in the application of the 1996 law, but say the Bonior-Campbell bill goes too far.
"It's a situation that requires a scalpel, not a hatchet, " said an official with one Jewish group. "This bill is a hatchet." The American Jewish Committee was scheduled to testify. The ADL was also preparing written testimony opposing the repeal effort.
"The legislation being proposed is not sufficiently balanced," said Jess Hordes, the ADL's Washington director. "It's extreme in terms of not recognizing the need to protect security, and focussing only on the issue of due process. There is a middle ground that needs to be found."
But Jewish leaders also worried about the image their involvement would create.
"Retaining secret evidence provisions is justified on national security grounds, but it's an uncomfortable position for our community with its traditional support for due process and civil liberties to take," said an official with another Jewish group. "There was a lot of agonizing over how far we should go in opposing this legislation."