ACLU 9/11 Anniversary Report Warns of Threat to American Freedom and Security Posed by Counterterrorism Policies Since Attacks

September 7, 2011

Report, "A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years After 9/11," Details Dangers of Establishing Permanent War Footing

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CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – A decade after the September 11th attacks, the United States is at risk of enshrining a permanent state of emergency in which the nation's core values are subordinated to ever-expanding claims of national security, the American Civil Liberties Union warns in a new report released today.

"A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years After 9/11," shows how sacrificing America's values – including justice, individual liberty and the rule of law – ultimately undermines the country's safety. "It is our fundamental values that are the very foundation of our strength and security," the report says.

"We have titled it 'A Call to Courage,' because we believe that a defining element of our national identity – embodied in our national anthem’s pairing of 'the land of the free' with 'the home of the brave' – has been imperiled by our leaders' promotion of (or capitulation to) a politics of fear," the report explains.

It challenges the contention that the U.S. is engaged in a "war on terror" that takes place everywhere and will last forever, and that therefore counterterrorism measures cannot be balanced against any other considerations such as maintaining civil liberties. America has become an international legal outlier in invoking the right to use lethal force and indefinite military detention outside battle zones, the report says, and these policies have hampered the international fight against terrorism by straining relations with allies and handing a propaganda tool to enemies.

Taking on the legacy of the Bush administration's torture policy, the report warns that the lack of accountability leaves the door open to future abuses. "Our nation's official record of this era will show numerous honors to those who authorized torture – including a Presidential Medal of Freedom – and no recognition for those, like the Abu Ghraib whistleblower, who rejected and exposed it," it notes.

The report details how profiling based on race and religion has become commonplace nationwide, with the results of such approaches showing just how wrong and ineffective those practices are. "Targeting the American Muslim community for counterterrorism investigation is counterproductive because it diverts attention and resources that ought to be spent on individuals and violent groups that actually pose a threat," the report says. "By allowing – and in some cases actively encouraging – the fear of terrorism to divide Americans by religion, race, and belief, our political leaders are fracturing this nation’s greatest strength: its ability to integrate diverse strands into a unified whole on the basis of shared, pluralistic, democratic values."

Concluding with the massive expansion of surveillance since 9/11, the report delves into the many ways the government now spies on Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing, from warrantless wiretapping to cell phone location tracking – but with little to show for it. "The reality is that as governmental surveillance has become easier and less constrained, security agencies are flooded with junk data, generating thousands of false leads that distract from real threats," the report says.

The report points out that many controversial policies have been shrouded in secrecy under the rubric of national security, preventing oversight and examination by the public. "We look to our leaders and our institutions, our courts and our Congress, to guide us towards a better way, and it is now up to the American people to demand that our leaders respond to national security challenges with our values, our unity – and yes, our courage – intact."

A Call to Courage is available online at:
www.aclu.org/calltocourage

More information on the 9/11 anniversary is available at:
www.aclu.org/9-11-anniversary
 

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