Armey: Justice 'out of control,' violating rights
By Mimi Hall
USA TODAY - 17 Oct - WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, lashed out at the Justice Department Wednesday for what he called its ''lack of regard for personal civil liberties in America'' while combating terrorism.
''I told the president I thought his Justice Department was out of control,'' the retiring lawmaker told USA TODAY's editorial board.
Armey has long expressed concerns about civil liberties violations in the name of fighting terrorism. He helped scuttle Bush's plan to set up a government hotline for delivery workers and others to report suspicious activity.
''Are we going to save ourselves from international terrorism in order to deny the fundamental liberties we protect to ourselves?'' he said. ''It doesn't make sense to me.''
Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo said the actions have been ''well within the bounds of the Constitution and statutory authority provided by Congress.''
Armey's comments came as the American Civil Liberties Union launched a $3.5 million advertising and lobbying campaign accusing Attorney General John Ashcroft of eroding personal freedoms.
The ACLU campaign is aimed at getting Congress to repeal portions of the year-old USA Patriot Act, passed in response to Sept. 11. The act gave the government broad powers to monitor citizens suspected of having ties to terrorists.
The Justice Department has defended its new wiretapping authority and other surveillance as necessary to fight terrorism.