Civil Liberties and Surveillance Ten Years After 9/11

September 07, 2011

Ten years after the devastating attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, the ACLU joins all Americans in remembering the unspeakable losses suffered on that tragic day.

Ten years later, our nation still faces the challenge of remaining both safe and free. Increased government surveillance has led to a huge erosion of civil liberties, often targeting innocent people for expressing political opinions, protesting government policies, or fitting a certain racial or religious profile.

Just ask our client, University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole. The widely respected Middle East specialist publicly opposed the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration, exercising his free speech rights.

In response, the Bush Administration allegedly asked the CIA to launch an illegal surveillance campaign in an attempt to gather information that would be harmful or discrediting. We've filed a lawsuit on behalf of Professor Cole, demanding that the government turn over any documents it has relating to this serious violation of his Constitutional rights.

Professor Cole will discuss his experiences with our executive director Kary Moss this Thursday as part of Exploring the Post-9/11 Legal Landscape, a panel discussion of the government secrecy, illegal surveillance, racial profiling and intrusive airport searches that have defined this decade.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only case where the bounds of law have been stretched in the name of national security. The ACLU has documented examples of political spying, monitoring, and harassment of Americans based on their constitutionally-protected activities by federal, state and local officials in at least 33 states and the District of Columbia.

If we don't take action to oppose these abuses, we risk establishing a permanent surveillance state in which the effectiveness of surveillance policies is more important than its legality, where security dominates liberty, and secrecy destroys liberty.

The tenth anniversary is a crucial moment to look back in remembrance of the lives lost on 9/11, and to set a path for the next ten years and beyond. Instead of altering our most basic values out of fear, we must recommit to trusting what has always been our greatest strength: our Constitution and the commitment it embodies to the rule of law.

Join us Thursday, September 8 in Detroit for Exploring the Post-9/11 Legal Landscape, a discussion of the balance between national security and civil rights.  

By Kristi Pavlak, Stewardship and Events Manager