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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Muzzled at the ACLU

by Nat Hentoff


Roger Baldwin founded the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920 after President Wilson, during World War I, practically suspended the right to publicly — and privately, if overheard — dissent from government actions. Years later, I met Baldwin toward the end of his life, and his solemn advice to me was: "Always remember that no civil liberties battle is ever won — permanently." But, by placing freedom of speech at the core of the ACLU's reason for existence, Baldwin believed that no civil liberties battle need be permanently lost. (Just published is a chronicle, pertinent today, of Baldwin's achievements and continuing relevance —Liberties Lost: The Endangered Legacy of the ACLU, by Woody Klein.)

While the staff of the ACLU has never been more essential to protecting the Constitution, the top leadership of the ACLU is working to prevent dissenting national board members from going to the news media with criticisms of ACLU policies.

With Executive Director Anthony Romero's backing, the board has issued a proposal for this week's agenda that I expect would have startled Baldwin. This could tarnish the invaluable work of ACLU staff members who are fighting to "keep America safe and free." (The ACLU's slogan.)

Here is that proposal, as reported last month in The New York Times: "Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement. ... There is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the ACLU adversely in terms of public support and fundraising." --------------
READ THE REST HERE...Muzzled at the ACLU: "Repercussions "

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