October 10, 2011

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Established in 1920 by Roger Baldwin (who candidly stated that “Communism [was] the goal” toward which his efforts were directed), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) characterizes itself as America's "guardian of liberty," working to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." "We work," says the ACLU, "also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor."

The ACLU handles more than 6,000 court cases annually from its offices in almost every U.S. state. As of September 2006, the organization claimed to have “more than 500,000 members and supporters.” During the twenty months following September 11, 2001, its membership rolls swelled by some 55,000 -- largely as a result of its allegations that the Bush administration was trampling on the civil liberties of Americans during the post-9/11 era.

Since 9/11, the ACLU, along with the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, has led a coalition of civil liberties groups urging city councils across the United States to pass resolutions creating “Civil Liberties Safe Zones”; that is, to be non-compliant with the provisions of the Patriot Act. The ACLU also endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act of 2004, which was introduced by leftist Democrats in Congress to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Then the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Justice Department instituted a program requiring males visiting the U.S. from Arab and Muslim nations to register with the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the ACLU organized protests against what it called this "discriminatory" policy. It similarly protested an FBI anti-terrorism initiative to count and document all of America’s mosques, wherein extremist calls for violent jihad were not uncommon.

On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, when FBI and Homeland Security agents were tracking down illegal Iraqi immigrants considered to be dangerous, the ACLU set up a telephone hotline and conducted "Know Your Rights" training sessions giving illegals free advice on how to avoid deportation.

In a 2002 federal lawsuit naming Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta as a defendant, the ACLU challenged a new Aviation Transportation Security Act policy prohibiting non-citizens from working as airport security screeners.  In conjunction with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the ACLU has lobbied against any policy that would authorize security personnel at airports and border checkpoints to scrutinize travelers from terrorism-sponsoring nations any more closely than other travelers. Depicting racial and ethnic profiling as “shameful and unlawful,” the ACLU has represented Muslim and Middle Eastern plaintiffs in discrimination lawsuits against numerous airlines.

The ACLU opposes the Computer-Assisted Passenger Profiling System (CAPPS) used by airlines to check for various passenger characteristics that have historically been correlated with terrorist activities. In late 1997, when the CAPPS system was first set to be put in place, the ACLU set up a special online complaint form to collect information on incidents of discrimination and mistreatment by airport security personnel. As Gregory Nojeim explained, his organization was "concerned that the CAPPS system will have an unequal impact on some passengers, resulting in their being selected for treatment as potential terrorists based on their race, religion or national origin."The ACLU has sued over the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance program in Detroit, New York, Oregon, and San Francisco.

The Texas chapter of the ACLU was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document, composed by the radical group Refuse & Resist, condemning the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. The document read, in part, "[T]hey [the U.S. government] are coming for the Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants. … The recent 'disappearances,' indefinite detention, the round-ups, … the denial of any due process … have chilling similarities to a police state.”

In 2003 the ACLU held rallies on behalf of an Intel software engineer in Oregon named Maher Mofeid Hawash, whom U.S. officials were keeping in custody on suspicion that he had given material support to Taliban and al Qaeda forces fighting American troops in Afghanistan. (In February 2004, Hawash was convicted of the aforementioned crimes and was sentenced to seven years in prison.)

The ACLU passionately defended Sami Al-Arian, the former North American head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). In an effort to thwart the U.S. government's investigation of Al-Arian's role in funding PIJ suicide bombings in Israel, the ACLU said that the search warrants authorizing an FBI raid of his home and offices were overly broad, and that the items seized as evidence should therefore be returned to him.

The ACLU also came to the defense of radical attorney Lynne Stewart, who in February 2005 was convicted on charges that she had illegally “facilitated and concealed communications” between her client, the incarcerated “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman, and members of his Egyptian terrorist organization, the Islamic Group, which has ties to al Qaeda. On February 17, 2005, just after Stewart had been sentenced for her crimes, the ACLU of Massachusetts declared her prosecution “a chilling testament to what is being done to individual rights and to the rule of law itself in the name of ‘fighting terrorism.’”

In August 2005, the publication G2 Bulletin reported that ACLU lawyers had been present during interrogations of captured al Qaeda and Taliban enemy combatants who were being detained in Guantanamo Bay; in the majority of cases, these attorneys advised the inmates that they were under no obligation to answer military interrogators' questions.

According to columnist Debbie Schlussel, ACLU attorney Noel Saleh "openly stated at a town hall meeting with federal officials that he has financially contributed to Hezbollah." Moreover, writes Schlussel, "He [Saleh] has represented a number of Islamic terrorists, including Ibrahim Parlak and 'former' PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terrorist Imad Hamad."

The ACLU’s affiliations with terrorists are not restricted solely to foreigners. For instance, the organization once named unrepentant New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board. Dohrn, along with her husband Bill Ayers, was a 1960s anti-American militant and a leader of Weatherman – described by Ayers as “an American Red Army.”

In the vanguard of the open borders lobby, the ACLU advocates the dissolution of America’s borders and the removal of all restrictions on immigration into the United States. The organization aims to expand anti-discrimination laws to require employers to hire illegal aliens; weaken sanctions against employers who hire illegal aliens; bar the INS from conducting inspections without a search warrant; require U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to provide free legal counsel to illegal aliens; and ensure illegal aliens' eligibility for welfare benefits. The ACLU has opposed all Justice Department proposals to fingerprint and track immigrants and foreign visitors to the United States, claiming that such measures "treat immigrant populations as a separate and quasi-criminal element of society." The organization has also opposed Justice Department initiatives to give state and local police the power to enforce immigration laws. To deal with these and other immigration-related issues, the ACLU in 1987 established its Immigrant Rights Project.

Former ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser attributes the concerns that many Americans have about illegal immigration to a "wave of anti-immigrant hysteria." Steven Shapiro of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Wade Henderson of the ACLU's Washington, DC office claim that the desire to regulate immigration can be traced directly to "hostility motivated by nativism, racism, and red scare."

"Church and state" issues have been a recurring theme on the ACLU docket over the years. Each spring as high-school graduation approaches, the organization distributes a letter to public schools warning them that no one is permitted pray or make public remarks referring to their faith at graduation ceremonies. Moreover, it calls on public schools to censure any speech that might be viewed as having a religious tone.

In 2006 the ACLU demanded that the town of St. Bernard, Louisiana, adjacent to New Orleans, not be allowed to erect a gold and silver cross as part of its memorial to the victims of Hurricane Katrina — even though the memorial was financed by private funds and is located on private land. That same year, the ACLU sued the school board of Harrison County, West Virginia over a portrait of Jesus that had hung outside a principal's office for nearly 40 years.

In April 1997 the ACLU of Illinois filed a federal lawsuit challenging the City of Chicago's operation of scout troops affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) -- on grounds that the BSA had traditionally required its members to profess their belief in God, and had barred homosexual men from being scout leaders.

Consistent with its belief that the U.S. is a nation infested with racism and injustice, the ACLU of Southern California endorsed an October 22, 2002 National Day of Protest exhorting Americans to rise up and "Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation." The document announcing this event stated: "Since September 11, 2001, the authorities have rapidly imposed a resoundingly repressive atmosphere. … All over the U.S. people are being killed by law enforcement officers at an escalating rate. … Hard-won civil liberties and protections have been stripped away as part of the government's 'war on terrorism.'” Moreover, this document explicitly defended Lynne Stewart, Jose Padilla (who was indicted on terrorism-related offenses), the cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the convicted double murderer Leonard Peltier. The ACLU depicts all four of these individuals as persecuted political prisoners of a repressive American government.

“Freedom of speech” cases rank among the ACLU’s highest priorities. For example, the organization asserts that the First Amendment “protects” child pornography, and that there should be no governmental restriction on its distribution, reproduction, sale, or use. In August 2006 the ACLU objected to new Los Angeles City Council rules of decorum banning the use of slurs and profanity; the organization deemed such standards a violation of First Amendment rights. On the same grounds, the ACLU opposes laws prohibiting the disruption of military funerals by radical antiwar demonstrators, and has fought such restrictions in Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio and elsewhere.

Among the American Civil Liberties Union’s additional issues of concern are the following:

  • The ACLU seeks to prohibit security personnel at National Football League games from searching fans for weapons before they enter the stadiums. It similarly aims to prevent New York City subway police officers from searching passengers they deem suspicious. (By contrast, the ACLU adamantly reserves the right to have its own security guards search the possessions of anyone entering its New York City headquarters building.)
  • The ACLU was an Organizer of the April 25, 2004 "March for Women's Lives" a Washington, DC rally that drew more than a million demonstrators advocating the right to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.
  • In recent years, the ACLU has waged an advertising campaign and filed numerous lawsuits aimed at overturning felon-disenfranchisement laws (which bar convicted felons from voting in political elections) in Florida, California, Georgia, and other states.
  • The ACLU sued the state of Florida for having banned publicly funded universities from using state money to finance trips to countries designated as sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
  • In July 2006, the ACLU asked officials in a Detroit suburb to reject a proposal that would require businesses with foreign-language signs to add English translations – characterizing the proposal as “unconstitutional, anti-immigrant and unnecessary."
  • The ACLU’s policy guide states that all civil and criminal laws prohibiting bigamy and polygamy should be repealed.
  • In June 2006, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis because of a newly passed local ordinance that would fine convicted child molesters, predators, and rapists $600 if they were found within 1,000 feet of playgrounds, swimming pools, recreation centers, or sports fields when children were present.
  • In 2007 the ACLU condemned draft regulations for the implementation of the Real ID Act (H.R. 418), a system (passed by Congress in 2005 and scheduled to take effect in May 2008) aimed at stiffening federal laws to: protect against terrorists’ entry into the U.S.; prevent people from abusing the state driver's license process to obtain false identification; and expand the legal definition of "terrorist organization" and “engaged in terrorist activity,” as those terms pertain to U.S. immigration law. According to the ACLU, the measure would constitute a "real nightmare" for America that “will only lead to a national identity card system that violates personal privacy …”  

In July 2007, the Capital Research Center reported: “With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, aircraft maker Boeing is being sued by three suspected al-Qaida operatives transported by the CIA to Arab countries for interrogation … The lawsuit alleges a Boeing subsidiary helped the intelligence agency fly the detainees to Egypt and Morocco knowing they would be tortured by authorities there under its controversial ‘rendition’ program. ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said U.S. companies should not profit from a program that is ‘unlawful and contrary to core American values,’ and that such businesses ‘should be held legally accountable.’ The action was brought under the Alien Tort Statute using a legal technique perfected by the Center for Constitutional Rights …”

In September 2007 the ACLU won a court victory when federal judge Victor Marrero struck down a key part of the USA Patriot Act. At issue was a post-9/11 law that gave broader investigative powers to law-enforcement officials. Reported the Associated Press: "The ACLU had challenged the law on behalf of an Internet service provider, claiming that the law allowed the FBI to demand records without the kind of court supervision required for other government searches. Under the law, investigators can issue so-called national security letters to entities like Internet service providers and phone companies and demand customers' phone and Internet records."

In 2010, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights jointly filed a lawsuit seeking to end a U.S. government program authorizing the killing of accused terrorists like the Muslim cleric (of Yemeni descent) Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual citizen of the United States and Yemen. (The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Awlaki's father.) An al Qaeda "regional commander," the younger Awlaki is known to have called for Muslims worldwide to wage jihad against America and the West. His sermons were attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers (two of whom he met with privately) and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan (with whom he communicated regularly, and whose deadly 2009 shooting rampage he praised). Moreover, "Christmas Day bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab identified al-Awlaki was one of his al Qaeda trainers and spiritual advisers. In July 2010, Awlaki published an article in al Qaeda's English-language magazine, Inspire, calling for Muslims to assassinate several people, including a young female cartoonist in Seattle and the novelist Salman Rushdie.

In September 2011, American News Commentary reported that the ACLU was defending the right of Muslims to pray in San Diego's public schools. Kevin Keenan, an ACLU spokesperson in that city, explained: “Performing these prayers is widely recognized as one of the five essential pillars of Islam.” This position represented a stark contrast to the ACLU's four-decade track record of threatening to sue school boards, school administrators, and school children if they prayed Christian prayers on campus; warning school coaches and sporting-event coordinators that if they were to pray in public, they would be sued for violating the Establishment Clause; and sending emissaries to monitor city-council meetings nationwide for evidence that those meetings may have opened with a prayer.

The ACLU has received funding from the Open Society Institute, the Arca Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Columbia Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Columbia Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the JEHT Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the Lear Family Foundation, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.


We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.