ACLU 'Roundtable' in The New Yorker Explores Diverse Views on Safety and Freedom

December 10, 2001 12:00 am

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NEW YORK–Seeking to further the critical dialogue on civil liberties and safety in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the American Civil Liberties Union today is publishing excerpts from a recent series of conversations it convened with a diverse group of people on the question, “”Can we be both safe and free?””

The answers, gathered from 14 men and women from around the nation, appear in a special 4-page pamphlet titled “”Life in the Balance”” in the December 17 issue of The New Yorker that hits newsstands today.

“”Everywhere in America, people are struggling to reconcile their strong commitment to personal freedom with the changes wrought by the tragedies of September 11,”” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “”Unlike Attorney General John Ashcroft, we believe that grappling with these difficult questions will only strengthen, not erode our national unity.””

In the discussion groups, the ACLU asked participants their views on immigration policies, ethnic profiling, the broad new government powers granted by the anti-terrorism legislation and whether they would be willing to give up or suspend personal freedoms to protect society from terrorism.

“”We’re supposed to be protecting freedom, but instead we are profiling people from certain parts of the world and taking away their liberties,”” said Farhat, a recent immigrant from Illinois.

Lynn, from Pittsburgh, saw it differently: “”If you are a person not of American citizenry, why should you get the same rights that I get?””

“”No matter what their views, we were heartened by the depth of passion that people from all walks of life have for the values of democracy and freedom,”” Romero said. “”And we remain convinced that America can indeed stay safe and free during this time of national crisis.””

The four-color pamphlet includes photos of the discussion participants, who are identified only by their first names and last initials and the cities they live in. The back page of the pamphlet lists three steps people can take to help keep America both safe and free: Stay Informed — by visiting the ACLU website; Take Action — by sending free faxes and e-mail to elected representatives; and Join the ACLU — by becoming a “”card-carrying member.””

The ACLU is inviting readers of The New Yorker and netizens everywhere to continue this dialogue in a special online forum at

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