Civil Liberties and Human Rights
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In 2001, Mike Capuano voted against the USA PATRIOT Act. In 2010 and again in 2011 he voted against the extension of three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. He also opposed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The original FISA legislation permitted wire-tapping with warrants issued by judges in special courts who were able to examine evidence in secret if national security might be jeopardized by arguments in open court. He believed the amended act was unconstitutional, violating the protections of the First and Fourth Amendments.
In 2013 Mike spoke out against reports that the federal government was collecting data on consumer phone calls and other activities. The government asserts that the gathering of this information is permissible under the USA PATRIOT Act. Mike strongly disagreed and renewed his call to review that law.
Mike understands we live in a dangerous world. When considering military commissions to try suspected terrorists, he was willing, for example, to discuss changing standards of proof from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "the preponderance of the evidence." He was not, however, prepared to tolerate trials conducted on the authority of the President alone, as the previous administration attempted to do through Executive Order. He believes we must remain a government of laws. The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has honored Mike with their Champion of the Constitution award.
Mike co-sponsored H.R. 3702, The Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011. This legislation would specify that it is unlawful to indefinitely detain an American citizen in the United States without charges or due process — a concept that was shockingly in need of clarification after troubling language was included in the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Mike has taken the lead on many privacy and civil liberties related issues with legislation including: the Black Box Privacy Protection Act which gives consumers more control over their vehicle’s “black box”; the We Are Watching You Act which gives consumers the right to say no to being watched by their own television; and the Reasonable Policies on Automated License Plate Readers Act, which establishes commonsense guidelines for police departments to follow when using this technology.
The right to vote remains the basis of all our rights. Mike proudly co-sponsored the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Reauthorization Act of 2006, maintaining the provisions of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. He is determined to protect the integrity of every vote cast, and has insisted that any nationwide reform of voting include the right of every citizen to demand a paper ballot. As a member of the Somerville City Council, his leadership was pivotal in making Somerville the first city in Massachusetts to adopt optical scanners. This system is, after the national debacle of hanging chads, now recognized as the gold standard of election technology.
Mike is firmly committed to individual freedom. He was a co-sponsor of a bill to repeal the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA). The Supreme Court later ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional.
Mike believes that the United States must support human rights globally. He has opposed trade agreements, such as Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and CAFTA for Central America, because our negotiators did not insist on minimal protections for human rights and the right to organize independent trade unions. He has joined with Amnesty International to support prisoners of conscience around the world and with programs like "Scholars at Risk" at Harvard in defense of exiled dissidents.
He has worked closely with the International Rescue Committee, the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, and the Political Asylum and Immigration Representation (PAIR) Project to secure political asylum for survivors of torture and other atrocities and to reunite them with their spouses and children.