National Security

National Security

The ACLU Human Rights Program works to ensure that the U.S. government complies with universal human rights principles in addition to the U.S. Constitution. The Program uses human rights strategies to complement existing ACLU advocacy. More

Since 9/11, America’s historic role as a leader in the human rights movement and its moral standing in the commu­nity of nations has been damaged as never before. The Bush administration’s response to 9/11 called into question truths Americans had thought self-evident about themselves.

American officials had helped draft the Convention against Torture and the United States was at the forefront of the anti-torture move­ment. Yet, starting in 2001, U.S. per­sonnel subjected hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan to cruel and in­human treatment, and tortured an un­known number. Countless detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan have died in the custody of the United States because of gross recklessness, abuse or torture and suicide.

America historically stood for the principle of justice in ac­cordance with the rule of law, yet start­ing in 2002, hundreds of men were de­tained indefinitely without charge in Guantánamo and secretly in other countries. Amer­ica has always been the land of immigrants, but after 9/11 the Bush admin­istration established special programs in which thousands of immigrants were questioned, wrongly detained, and hun­dreds unfairly deported, often for minor immigration violations such as over­staying a visa.

Repressive governments around the world have pointed to the United States’ post-9/11 behavior as an excuse for illegal actions against their own citizens, fur­ther delegitimizing the United States’ moral authority. It's time for this nation to reclaim that moral authority; it can begin by holding those who authorized torture accountable, and closing detention facilities abroad and bringing prisoners to justice here in U.S. courts.

Additional Resources

ACLU Suggested List of Issues to U.N. Country Report Task Force on U.S. Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (2012 resource): The ACLU submitted a report to the Human Rights Committee as part of a larger civil society effort to inform the international human rights community about the situation of human rights in the United States.

El-Masri v. Tenet (case): The ACLU filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent victim of the extraordinary rendition. The petition asks the IACHR to declare that the extraordinary rendition program violates the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; to find the U.S. responsible for violating El-Masri’s rights under that declaration; and to recommend that the U.S. publicly acknowledge and apologize for its role in violating El-Masri’s rights to be free from arbitrary detention and torture.

ACLU National Security Project: The ACLU's National Security Project advocates for national security policies that are consistent with the Constitution, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights. The Project litigates cases relating to detention, torture, discrimination, surveillance, censorship, and secrecy.

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