In New Advertisement, ACLU Calls for Stop to Attorney General's Assault on Civil Liberties

February 6, 2003 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – In a hard-hitting new national print advertisement that depicts the Attorney General as an extremist “editor” of the Bill of Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union today called on the American people to “stop the Ashcroft assault on our civil liberties.”

Ashcroft Print Ad

Both English and Spanish (Español) versions of the ad are available for download

“Attorney General Ashcroft took an oath of office to protect the Constitution and he has not upheld that oath,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Instead he has shamelessly used the tragic events of September 11 to advance his radical ideology in a way that has not made us any safer and has certainly made us less free.”

Superimposed over a torn image of the Bill of Rights, the advertisement juxtaposes a historic portrait of “The Authors” (the Founders, seated around a conference table) with a photograph of “The Editor,” Attorney General Ashcroft, making a scissors-like gesture with his fingers. It lists some of the liberties Ashcroft has slashed in his response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and urges Americans to act before their remaining freedoms disappear.

“Today, the government can get a secret warrant to search your home without telling you until long afterwards,” the advertisement reads. “Today, the government can monitor your Internet use, read your emails, examine your online purchases with minimal judicial oversight. Today, you can be detained without access to a lawyer, without being charged with a crime. Today, John Ashcroft has authorized the FBI to monitor your political activities, to send agents into your house of worship. We can only guess what tomorrow will bring.”

Opposition to Ashcroft’s zealous assault on civil liberties can be seen in the ACLU’s recent surge in membership, as well as in the growing grassroots movement to pass local resolutions prohibiting implementation of new policies coming out of Washington that intrude on Constitutional freedoms, according to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office.

“Local governments have the power to tell their law enforcement officers not to spy without evidence of crime,” Murphy said. “With the help of ACLU members and activists around the country, we will encourage them to say ‘no’ as strongly as possible.”

To date, 32 communities around the country, representing more than 4.5 million people, have enacted resolutions prohibiting local implementation of anti-civil liberties policies, with many others engaged in the process. And since the attacks of 9/11, the ACLU’s membership has surged by 15 percent, to 378,000 members and supporters nationwide.

The advertisement is running in the Feb. 10 and 24 issues of The Nation and is slated to run in the Feb 15 issue of The Economist. Over the next five months, it will also appear in The Advocate, Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, Harper’s Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, The Progressive and Science Magazine. A Spanish-language version of the advertisement is also planned. The ad can be found on the ACLU website at

The new print advertisement is part of “Keep America Safe and Free,” a $3.5 million national ACLU campaign to safeguard the freedoms that Attorney General Ashcroft and the Bush Administration have targeted since the terrorist attacks. The campaign — the biggest in the organization’s 83 year history — includes for the first time paid television as well as print advertising and a massive mobilization of its members and supporters.

The advertisement continues a theme introduced in the ACLU’s first national television spot released with the launch of the campaign last October. “Look what John Ashcroft is doing to our Constitution,” a voiceover says as the screen shows a pair of hands editing and cutting out portions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The television ad can be found at

In addition to grassroots organizing and legislative lobbying, the ACLU will continue to file legal challenges to unconstitutional provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and other government actions. The ACLU has already filed more than two dozen lawsuits challenging government secrecy, detention of immigrants and U.S. citizens, discrimination against Arab Americans and violations of the free speech rights of protesters.

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