[Marxism] ACLU timidity

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 31 02:51:33 MDT 2004

Note by Hunter Bear:

Many years have come and gone since ACLU was a militant, fighting
organization.  We made a number of requests in recent years to the Idaho
affiliate for assistance on a number of critical fronts and didn't even get
an acknowledgement.  I then wrote the national office which sent me a gaggle
of papers -- explaining that I had to go to the state affiliate.  In the old
days, we had the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee [Harvey O'Connor et
al.] as a solid fall back but that's now gone.  An outfit can't fight
effectively for social justice in a capitalist society and be viewed as
"respectable."  H

A.C.L.U. Board Is Split Over Terror Watch Lists

Published: July 31, 2004  NYT

The American Civil Liberties Union is in turmoil over a promise it made to
the government that it would not knowingly hire people whose names appear on
watch lists of suspected supporters of terrorism.

Those lists are the very type it has strongly opposed in other contexts.

In April, for instance, the group filed suit to block the use of "no fly"
lists of people barred from air travel or subject to heightened scrutiny,
saying the lists were often inaccurate and violated the constitutional
rights of some people.

The group made the promise not to employ people it knew to be on similar
terrorism lists so that it could continue participating in a program that
allows federal employees to make charitable contributions through payroll

That promise, several members of the A.C.L.U. board said, is at odds with
the group's core principles and calls to mind an episode in 1940, when the
board passed a resolution purging its staff of people who supported
communism. With that history in mind, A.C.L.U. officials said, they had made
the commitment in name only and did not intend to consult the lists.

"We oppose 'no fly' lists," said Michael Meyers, a member of the group's
executive committee. "Now we have a 'no hire' list that we've signed onto.
We're in the midst of an organizational cultural crisis of enormous size."

The promise and related subjects were discussed at a contentious, all-day
board meeting in San Francisco on July 9, and a motion to rescind the
promise was overwhelmingly rejected by a voice vote. A.C.L.U. officials said
the debate would continue.

Anthony D. Romero, the group's executive director, said that the promise had
not affected any employment decision by the group and that he had not
reviewed the lists.

"I've printed them out," he said. "I've never consulted them."

In the "no fly" suit, the A.C.L.U. said that the name of one of its staff
lawyers, a man of Middle Eastern descent, mistakenly appears on government
security lists.

Mr. Romero said he signed a certification in January that the group "does
not knowingly employ individuals or contribute funds to organizations found
on" lists created by the federal government, the United Nations and the
European Union. The certification referred specifically to three lists
maintained by the Justice, State and Treasury Departments, including one
called for by the Patriot Act, the antiterrorism law that the group has
often criticized.

The certification has been required since October of all groups that
participate in the Combined Federal Campaign, a charity drive for federal
employees and military personnel that raised $250 million for thousands of
groups last year. The lists, which contain thousands of names, are posted on
the federal program's Web site.

Mr. Romero defended his decision to sign the certification but said he was
seeking clarification from the government about the obligations it entails.
He said that the language of the certification required knowingly employing
someone named on the lists, and that he had taken care not to know the
listed names.

"No amount of money is worth violating our principles," he said. "We would
never terminate or kick off board members or staff members because of their
associational rights. We've made those mistakes in the past."

But Mara T. Patermaster, the director of the charity program, which is run
by the Office of Personnel Management, the government's human resources
agency, said that ignoring the information on the lists was unacceptable and
no defense.

"We expect that the charities will take affirmative action to make sure they
are not supporting terrorist activities," she said. "That would specifically
include inspecting the lists. To just sign a certification without
corroboration would be a false certification."

"If an organization is found to falsely certify their eligibility for
inclusion," she added, "they could be ruled temporarily ineligible for
inclusion or they could be permanently excluded."

Mr. Romero disputed Ms. Patermaster's understanding. "On advice of counsel,"
he said, "we think our interpretation could be reasonable."

The A.C.L.U. received $470,000 from federal employees through the program
last year, said Emily Whitfield, a spokeswoman for the group. The A.C.L.U.'s
2002 annual budget, the most recent available, was $102 million, including
its foundations and affiliates, she said. The group's board has more than 80

"That the A.C.L.U. board could vote down a motion to rescind this
certification is just stunning to me," said Wendy Kaminer, a board member
who walked out on the July 9 meeting on learning that Mr. Romero had signed
the certification and so was not present for the voice vote to rescind it.
"This is like the pope coming out in favor of abortion rights."

Mr. Romero said that vigorous debate is not unusual among civil
libertarians. "That debate," he said of July 9, "was nothing different in
tone or substance than debates we had on campaign finance, for instance."

Nadine Strossen, the president of the A.C.L.U. board, said Mr. Romero's
decision to sign the certification was based on "a very reasonable,
certainly clever interpretation."

"Do we do more harm than good by spurning money by certifying something that
is plausible but not the only plausible interpretation?" she asked. "It's
completely a debate about strategy, not principle."

"I think Anthony handled it completely appropriately," she added, saying the
group's executive committee would consider the issue further on Aug. 7.

Robert B. Remar, a member of the executive committee who said he supported
Mr. Romero, said the group should take prompt action given new information
about the government's position that the certification requires diligent

"We either ought to litigate the legality of that or give the money back,"
he said. "I don't think the A.C.L.U. should be in the business of checking
names on these lists."

Stan Furman, another board member, agreed. "It smacks of blacklists," he
said. "We've seen that the government under Ashcroft has made numerous lists
of 'terrorist organizations' that in my opinion aren't really terrorist

In 1940, the group dropped Elizabeth Gurley Flynn from its board because she
was a member of the Communist Party. (Ms. Flynn was posthumously

At the same time, it passed a resolution calling it inappropriate for anyone
to serve on the group's governing committees or staff who was "a member of
any political organization which supports totalitarian dictatorship in any
country or by his public declarations indicates the support of such a

"It was a colossal error," Samuel Walker, who wrote a history of the
A.C.L.U., said of the 1940 decisions. "It has since been almost universally
viewed as a reprehensible mistake."
In an article submitted to the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The
Wall Street Journal after the July 9 meeting and supplied to a reporter by
the A.C.L.U., Mr. Romero criticized the certification requirement as "an
insidious chill on speech" though he did not note that he had signed the

"The A.C.L.U. is currently challenging a version of these lists in its 'no
fly' litigation," he wrote. "Our concerns are that ambiguous definitions of
'terrorism' and potentially inaccurate 'terrorism watch lists' can also
serve to shut down legitimate forms of advocacy and debate. Relying on
employers to enforce 'terrorist' lists also evokes eerie echoes of our
McCarthy-era past."

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR]   Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
and Ohkwari'

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]

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