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MIAMI – Colonel Mike Pheneger, U.S. Army retired, was unanimously elected President of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida's Board of Directors. The election took place at the organization's quarterly board meeting held on Saturday, May 15 in Ft. Lauderdale.
Col. Pheneger spent 30 years as an Army intelligence officer before retiring in 1993. He served in a variety of assignments including Director of Intelligence for US Special Operations Command, Deputy Director of Intelligence for US Central Command, and multiple combat tours.
"My roles in the military and the ACLU are in perfect harmony," said Col. Pheneger. "Entering the Army I swore to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies; in the ACLU we support and defend the Bill of Rights to preserve the constitutional freedoms of all Americans against encroachment by the government and the ‘tyranny of the majority.'
"The Bill of Rights is the great gift of our Founders who feared the new government might be tempted to trample the rights of its citizens," said Col. Pheneger. "They insisted on adding a Bill of Rights as a condition of the Constitution's ratification."
He noted that "the ACLU's commitment to defending the Bill of Rights and the rule of law makes it one of the most conservative organizations in the country."
"Mike Pheneger's deep commitment to constitutional freedoms makes him an exciting choice for President of our Board," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
"Maybe the election of a career military officer as our Board President will motivate some critics to put aside a false stereotype of the ACLU and recognize that, for the last 90 years, the ACLU has been the nation's leading non-partisan defender of constitutional rights for everyone."
Col. Pheneger first joined the ACLU as an undergraduate and became an active member when he retired from the Army. He has served the organization in a number of capacities; most notably he represented the ACLU of Florida on the ACLU's National Board of Directors for seven years and was the first Florida board member elected to the National Executive Committee.
Since 9/11, Col. Pheneger has been a frequent spokesperson for the ACLU in local and national media on civil liberties issues relating to national security.
"We can defend our country without resorting to torture, warrantless wiretapping, and weakening the protection of the rights of individuals, Pheneger noted." In times of crisis, there is always a temptation to sacrifice liberty for security. That isn't necessary. Security and freedom are not in a zero-sum game – we do not need to sacrifice who we are to protect our national security."
The state ACLU Board also elected a new slate of officers, and honored outgoing State Board President Jeanne Baker for her seven years of tirelessly leading the organization through difficult times for civil liberties in Florida and the country. A full list of the ACLU of Florida's newly elected Executive Committee is below:
CHAIR OF LEGAL PANEL
CHAIR OF DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
NATIONAL BOARD REPRESENTATIVE
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION OFFICER
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT