ACLU Testifies On Preserving Free Speech And Privacy Rights In Online Counterterrorism Practices

ACLU Testifies On Preserving Free Speech And Privacy Rights In Online Counterterrorism PracticesACLU Testifies On Preserving Free Speech And Privacy Rights In Online Counterterrorism Practices

May 26, 2010
Anthony D. Romero testified today before a key House Homeland Security subcommittee about the importance of steadfastly preserving privacy rights and free speech while continuing effective counterterrorism efforts online. While acknowledging the challenges posed by the cyber-revolution in protecting the Internet, Romero urged members of the Homeland Security Committee to not only allow the Internet to remain an unfettered place of freedom and anonymity but to ensure the free speech and privacy rights of its users remain intact.

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WASHINGTON – American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero testified today before a key House Homeland Security subcommittee about the importance of steadfastly preserving privacy rights and free speech while continuing effective counterterrorism efforts online. While acknowledging the challenges posed by the cyber-revolution in protecting the Internet, Romero urged members of the Homeland Security Committee to not only allow the Internet to remain an unfettered place of freedom and anonymity but to ensure the free speech and privacy rights of its users remain intact.

The Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment also heard testimony from legal scholars as well as other First Amendment and civil liberties experts.

“If we trade our civil liberties for the promise of security, we’ll end up with neither,” said Romero. “Not only does it fly in the face of American values to allow censorship in any form, it also is counterproductive to preventing the extremist violence. Congress must be aware of its constitutional limits when it comes to fighting the so-called ‘war on terror’ online. Only with a clear commitment to our values and rule of law can we have a sensible approach to counterterrorism.”

The ACLU noted in its testimony that the Internet has become an essential communications and research tool for everyone and that viewing it as a tool for terrorists will lead to censorship and regulated speech. Some in Congress have placed inordinate and inappropriate significance on the role of the Internet in the radicalization process and have proposed shutting down objectionable websites in violation of the First Amendment.

There have also been proposals to investigate anyone who might have visited questionable sites which would constitute a severe invasion of privacy.

“Fear cannot and should not drive our government policies,” Romero continued. “The Internet is the most open marketplace of ideas in the history of the world and it must remain so. Any suggestion to limit this marketplace would not only be a direct and immediate harm to the speech and privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, it would also erode the very principles that make our country the beacon of freedom to people around the globe.”

To read the ACLU’s statement, go to:
www.aclu.org/free-speech-technology-and-liberty/aclu-testimony-house-homeland-security-subcommittee-intelligence-

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