Five Years After 9/11 Attacks, the Fight to Uphold Americans' Fundamental Freedoms and the Constitution Continues, ACLU Chief Says
NEW YORK - September 11 - In the five years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, Americans have successfully kept the light of freedom shining even as the Bush administration has consistently violated the spirit and letter of our laws, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.
"The hallmark of the past five years has been the administration's stunning dismissal of the rule of law and its willingness to trample on our Constitution," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "This is our democracy, our America. We must not stand on the sidelines while the president abuses his power and diminishes American values."
Since 9/11, the government has broadened its powers to allow law enforcement to secretly search our homes, monitor what we read and collect personal information on all of us such as medical, financial and phone records, even if it has nothing to do with terrorism -- and all without a court warrant.
"But we have had successes in these years," Romero noted, pointing to the Supreme Court's rejection of the military commission system established by President Bush to try detainees at Guantánamo Bay, and the recent federal court ruling rejecting warrantless wiretapping of Americans.
"There is much more to do -- and Congress must now do its part and put an end to these abuses of power by demanding that the president uphold the Constitution and our tested system of checks and balances," he said.
Looking back on the past five years, the ACLU has compiled a list of the "top ten" abuses of power since 2001, as well as the top civil liberties victories in response to those abuses. The abuses include:
* Wiretapping of innocent Americans without court approval or Congressional authority;
* Torture, kidnapping and unlawful detention of prisoners;
* The growing "surveillance society" -- a combination of new technologies, expanded government powers and expanded private-sector data collection efforts;
* Spying on peaceful, law-abiding Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights;
* Creation of the Guantánamo Bay camp, where hundreds of prisoners have been held indefinitely, without charges or access to attorneys.
Victories for the rule of law and civil liberties include:
* Congress' adoption of the "McCain Amendment" which helped bolster the rule of law in military interrogations;
* The dismantling of the massive "Total Information Awareness" spying program which sought to monitor, among other things, innocent Americans' financial, health, travel and credit card transactions;
* Prominent conservatives and conservative organizations joining the ACLU's fight to keep America safe and free;
* The Supreme Court's landmark June 2006 ruling that the military commissions system established by President Bush to try detainees at Guantánamo Bay is unfair and illegal;
* Recent court rulings rejecting government spying without a warrant.
The ACLU has posted its review online at www.aclu.org/september11. The website includes audio podcasts from ACLU leaders and staff on the events of 2001 and the fight for freedom in a changed world.
"Over the past five years, the ACLU and its members have shown that the American people will not sacrifice their precious civil liberties," Romero concluded. "We have been there for America since 1920 and we will always be there to advocate aggressively for our fundamental freedoms."
The ACLU will continue that fight in October at its national membership conference, which will include a lobbying day with members of Congress. For more information, go to http://action.aclu.org/conference/index.html