Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, is currently leading the challenge to the government’s expanded surveillance powers under the USA Patriot Act.
Working with a broad coalition of lawyers and activists to prevent further erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security, she represents libraries and bookstores worried about government requests for information about patrons’ reading habits, and has fought the growing use of foreign intelligence powers to spy on U.S. citizens.
Based in New York, she has litigated numerous civil liberties cases across the country. In November 2001, she argued before the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. ACLU, a challenge to the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), in which the lower courts had struck down Congress’s attempt to impose criminal sanctions on protected Internet speech. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Third Circuit but left the injunction in place, and the Third Circuit recently struck down the law a second time.
As counsel for plaintiffs in Reno v. ACLU, Beeson was a primary architect of the landmark case in which the Supreme Court in 1997 declared the Communications Decency Act (CDA) — the first federal Internet censorship law — unconstitutional and unequivocally affirmed free speech rights in cyberspace. “We’re defining the legal parameters of civil liberties in the digital age,” says Beeson, a former Litigation Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. “This continues to be a cutting-edge area of the law.”
Beeson also co-chairs the ACLU’s International Human Rights Task Force, which seeks to expand the use of international human rights law in domestic civil rights cases.
She is one of the most respected litigators in the country; the National Law Journal recently made it official, naming her one of “America’s Top 50 Women Litigators.” She has also been singled out for recognition by the World Economic Forum (which named her one of its “Global Leaders for Tomorrow”), and The Los Angeles Times (which named her one of six “Stars of the Internet” for her efforts to safeguard free speech in cyberspace).
Beeson came to the ACLU in 1995 from Human Rights Watch, where she documented threats to free expression in Albania, and advocated to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Internet. She is also an amateur pilot and an accomplished singer who has performed in an a capella jazz vocal group.
She is a graduate of Emory University School of Law, and holds a master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Texas.
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