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An ACLU report release to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 warns that a decade after the attacks, the United States is at risk of enshrining a permanent state of emergency in which core values must be subordinated to ever-expanding claims of national security. (More on Civil Liberties After 9/11 »)
The report, entitled, "A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years after 9/11," explores how sacrificing America's values – including justice, individual liberty, and the rule of law – ultimately undermines safety. (Read the full report »)
Everywhere And Forever War
The report begins with an examination of the contention that the U.S. is engaged in a "war on terror" that takes place everywhere and will last forever, and that therefore counterterrorism measures cannot be balanced against any other considerations such as maintaining civil liberties. The report states that the United States has become an international legal outlier in invoking the right to use lethal force and indefinite military detention outside battle zones, and that these policies have hampered the international fight against terrorism by straining relations with allies and handing a propaganda tool to enemies.
A Cancer On Our Legal System
Taking on the legacy of the Bush administration's torture policy, the report warns that the lack of accountability leaves the door open to future abuses. "Our nation's official record of this era will show numerous honors to those who authorized torture – including a Presidential Medal of Freedom – and no recognition for those, like the Abu Ghraib whistleblower, who rejected and exposed it," it notes.
Fracturing Our “More Perfect Union”
The report details how profiling based on race and religion has become commonplace nationwide, with the results of such approaches showing just how wrong and ineffective those practices are. "Targeting the American Muslim community for counterterrorism investigation is counterproductive because it diverts attention and resources that ought to be spent on individuals and violent groups that actually pose a threat," the report says. "By allowing – and in some cases actively encouraging – the fear of terrorism to divide Americans by religion, race, and belief, our political leaders are fracturing this nation’s greatest strength: its ability to integrate diverse strands into a unified whole on the basis of shared, pluralistic, democratic values."
A Massive and Unchecked Surveillance Society
Concluding with the massive expansion of surveillance since 9/11, the report delves into the many ways the government now spies on Americans without any suspicion of wrongdoing, from warrantless wiretapping to cell phone location tracking – but with little to show for it. "The reality is that as governmental surveillance has become easier and less constrained, security agencies are flooded with junk data, generating thousands of false leads that distract from real threats," the report says.
“A Call to Courage” points out that many controversial policies have been shrouded in secrecy under the rubric of national security, preventing oversight and examination by the public. "We look to our leaders and our institutions, our courts and our Congress, to guide us towards a better way, and it is now up to the American people to demand that our leaders respond to national security challenges with our values, our unity – and yes, our courage – intact."