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Coalition cites rights concerns

Fearing the impact of Justice officials' sweeping new powers, national civil rights groups and Arab and Muslim organizations have formed a coalition to defend against practices they say violate people's civil liberties.

The coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arab American Institute and the Black Leadership Forum, is calling for more congressional oversight, including hearings. It also is demanding that
Justice Department officials release more information about the 500 remaining detainees held for immigration violations and stop the questioning of 5,000 young male foreigners, most of whom are from Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. The coalition will kick off its campaign with a rally Jan. 19 in Washington in commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

"There's a recognition among all these folks that we're all in the same boat and we can't sit back while one group gets singled out and think it's not going to happen to another," said Jason Erb, director of Governmental affairs for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is also part of the coalition.

The groups have raised concerns about legislation that expands Justice Department powers, including the authority to detain indefinitely noncitizens suspected of terrorism and to broaden wiretap surveillance…


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