- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

VIENNA, Austria The media watchdog in Europe's leading security organization criticized the United States yesterday for intruding on the private lives of Americans with a law passed in response to the September 11 attacks.
Freimut Duve of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) 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 federal agencies sweeping powers to access personal information about U.S. citizens in an attempt to prevent terrorist attacks. Though sympathetic to such concerns, Mr. 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."
He sought an explanation in a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Noting that secrecy surrounds the act, Mr. Duve said Mr. Powell should clarify the U.S. position.
Mr. Duve presented his concerns at a meeting of the Vienna-based OSCE and won support from Russia and the nations of the European Union.
The U.S. deputy chief of mission to the OSCE, Douglas Davidson, argued that 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," Mr. 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 that Mr. 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 that the government produce records on how often such searches are conducted.


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