Hentoff Indicts Clinton for "Serial Violation" of Civil Liberties

January 2, 1999 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

ACLU News Wire: 1-02-99 — Hentoff Indicts Clinton for “Serial Violation” of Civil Liberties

ine.gif” ALIGN=”BOTTOM”>

WASHINGTON–In his weekly syndicated column “Sweet Land of Liberty,” journalist Nat Hentoff takes President Clinton to task — not over the Lewinsky scandal or the current impeachment proceedings, but because the President “is a serial violator of the Bill of Rights, among other parts of the Constitution.”

“For example,” Hentoff writes, “the president has not been so distracted by the current scandal as to forgo a raid on the Fourth Amendment.” He cites the President’s signing of the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 1999. It includes a provision for “roving” wiretaps long sought by the President and FBI director Louis Freeh, and was slipped into the final bill without hearings or public debate.

“The ACLU,” Hentoff says, “which led the fight against this offense to the Constitution, points out that “roving” wiretaps “includes the phones in the private residences of a subject’s friends, neighbors or business associates.'” In other words, the FBI can listen to a person’s tapped phones even if the owner of phone and his or her family — not the target — are using it.

In opposing such wiretaps, the ACLU said that wiretapping is inherently destructive of privacy noting that, according to the Justice Department’s own statistics, more than 80 percent of conversations intercepted in law enforcement wiretaps are innocent.

Citing the President’s other constitutional assaults, Hentoff said that “the President also pressured the Justice Department to persuade the Communications Decency Act, which would have censored everything on the Internet that was insufficiently ‘decent’ for children.” The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the CDA on constitutional grounds in June 1997, in a case brought by the ACLU.

“His defenders — as they blame his plight on ‘right wing extremists’ — do not mention his legacy as the president in this century who has inflicted the most harm on our constitutional rights and liberties.”

“What is most disturbing,” Hentoff concludes, “is that the polls showing widespread approval of Clinton also reflect the popular ignorance of the Constitution that his defenders invoke to save him.”

Source: The Washington Post, January 2, 1999

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.