ACLU Suit Forces National Security Agency to Revisit Discriminatory Policy

February 4, 2000 12:00 am

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LOS ANGELES — In response to a lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the National Security Agency has agreed to “fairly and fully” review an application for their prestigious Undergraduate Training Program by a young man previously rejected for consideration solely because he lives with an elderly grandmother who is not a United States citizen.

The ACLU filed the action, Edward Doe v. National Security Agency (CV00-45 RT), last Thursday on behalf of a high school senior of Taiwanese descent with a straight-A grade point average at Riverside Poly High School, who applied to the NSA’s Undergraduate Training Program in November 1999. The program provides full college tuition and other benefits for students who commit to working for the NSA after college graduation.

Along with academic transcripts that show him to have placed in the 99th percentile on both the verbal and math SATs, Doe wrote, “I believe my credentials show I am a nearly ideal candidate for your program. In addition, I have no doubt about my loyalty to the United States — I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and I consider myself an American above everything else. To serve my country in the NSA would be a dream.”

Although Doe is a U.S.-born citizen, the NSA denied his application solely because he lives with his elderly grandmother who, while in this country legally, is not a U.S. citizen.

The ACLU’s complaint against the NSA said: “The rejection of Mr. Doe’s application, without any consideration of its merits, directly violates his rights to equal protection, due process, free association and the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizenship.”

“Over a half-century ago,” said ACLU staff attorney Dan Tokaji, “the United States government categorically deemed Asian Americans to be a security risk, sending more than 100,000 persons to internment camps merely because of their Japanese ancestry.”

“Sadly, this case reveals that discrimination by the United States government is not just a thing of the past,” Tokaji said. “We are pleased that the National Security Agency has agreed to give full and fair consideration to Edward’s application.

“The NSA must change its discriminatory policy now,” he added, “so that other qualified applicants are not denied the opportunity to serve their country merely because of their ancestry.”

Doe praised the NSA’s decision to re-evaluate his application. “I’m grateful that the NSA has decided to accept my application, but I hope that everyone else rejected or dissuaded from the NSA for the same reason will get the same chance I do.

“Regardless of who my family is or where they come from, I have the right to be as equal a citizen as any other in America,” he said.

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