National Security

National Security

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither ...

Illegal government spying, indefinite detention without charge or trial and government-sponsored torture programs after 9/11 transcended the bounds of law and our most treasured values in the name of national security. There has never been a more urgent need to restore individual freedoms, due process rights and our system of checks and balances. More

Our way forward lies in decisively turning our backs on the policies and practices that violate our greatest strength: our Constitution and the commitment it embodies to the rule of law. Liberty and security do not compete in a zero-sum game; our freedoms are the very foundation of our strength and security.

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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.

Detention: Official government reports have documented many horrific abuses inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody. The ACLU is working to stop physical and psychological abuse of detainees and the denial of their essential due process rights in prisons like Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. run detention facilities all over the world.

Discrimination: In the wake of 9/11, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security initiated sweeping programs that amount to racial profiling on a federal scale — ranging from suspicionless searches and arbitrary detentions of Arabs and Muslim Americans to counterterrorism financing and material support laws that unfairly target Muslim organizations and charities. The ACLU provides legal support to organizations and individuals who have been victims of racial and ethnic discrimination.

Dissent: Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the government has gone to extraordinary lengths to squelch dissent — from censorship and surveillance to detention, denial of due process and excessive force. The ACLU is committed to protecting Americans’ First Amendment rights. We are challenging the government’s exclusion of foreign scholars denied U.S. visas because of their political views, and we have represented individuals who have been targeted for exercising their constitutionally protected freedom to dissent.

Ideological Exclusion: The United States government is denying visas to foreign nationals whose political views the government disfavors. Once used to bar suspected Communists from entering the country, the practice of "ideological exclusion" was resurrected by the USA Patriot Act. Ideological exclusion violates Americans' First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the U.S.

Secrecy: Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security, have assumed an unprecedented amount of authority to detain and spy on individuals. Yet the public has been kept unaware of how these powers have been used. Government secrecy is a concept completely at odds with the idea of government accountability. As U.S. District Court Judge Damon Keith said on the need to open up deportation hearings, "Democracies die behind closed doors."

Surveillance & Privacy: Over the last few years, the federal government has returned to the bad old days of unchecked spying on ordinary Americans, as part of a broad pattern of executive abuses that use "national security" as an excuse for encroaching on our privacy and free speech rights without adequate - or any - judicial oversight.

Torture: Government documents show that, under the Bush administration, hundreds of prisoners were tortured in U.S. custody — some even killed — in the course of interrogation. Justice Department memos reveal that the torture policies were developed at the highest levels of government. These abuses can't be swept under the rug. The ACLU is committed to restoring the rule of law because accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative.

USA PATRIOT Act: In late February 2010, Congress decided to reauthorize three provisions of the Patriot Act for one more year. The ACLU will continue to push Congress to use the upcoming debate as an opportunity to examine all our surveillance laws and amend those that have been found unconstitutional or have been abused, including changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Attorney General Guidelines.

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