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ACLU Online: December 4, 2003

The e-newsletter of the American Civil Liberties Union



-- FBI & Local Law Enforcement Target Protestors
-- TAKE ACTION: Stop Government Surveillance of Peaceful Protesters!
-- Are You Being Watched? Take the New ACLU Quiz to Find Out
-- Hearing Marks DOJ's first Defense of USA PATRIOT Act
-- News: "Gay" is Not a Dirty Word, A League of Their Own



The ACLU has denounced a classified FBI intelligence memorandum, obtained by the New York Times, which gives police detailed instructions on how to target and monitor lawful political demonstrations under the rubric of fighting terrorism.

The FBI memorandum is online at:

"This bulletin confirms that the federal government is targeting innocent Americans engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent. The American people deserve an explanation for what is clearly a return to the days of J. Edgar Hoover's spying tactics," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director.

According to a front-page story in the New York Times, the memorandum was circulated to local law enforcement agencies around the country in advance of mass marches and rallies in Washington, DC and San Francisco against the U.S. occupation in Iraq.

The memorandum, the Times reports, details peaceful protest activities such as rehearsing for demonstrations, and using the Internet for activities like raising money and purchasing gas masks to defend against tear gas.

Of particular concern is one section warning law enforcement about protesters' use of videotaping as an "intimidation" technique. Most mainstream demonstrators often use videotape during protests to document law enforcement activity and, more importantly, deter police from acting outside the law.

Citing no evidence of suspected unlawful activity by the protesters, the memorandum claims that law enforcement officials, including the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF), should track these lawful protest tactics.

Disturbingly, the ACLU has already seen proof that peaceful activities were being monitored by the JTTF. Documents recently obtained by the ACLU of Colorado as part of its "Spy Files" lawsuit against Denver police confirmed that the local JTTF has been collecting information about peaceful protest activities that have nothing to do with terrorism or any other criminal activity.

Read more about the FBI memorandum and the ACLU's response to it:

Listen to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero discuss how the Bush Administration and local law enforcement are treading on civil liberties and blurring the line between terrorism and legitimate protest on Public Radio International's "To The Point."


The ability to speak freely and peacefully protest government policies is a cherished right, as enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Peaceful protesters should not be treated as potential terrorists nor spied upon by federal government agents.

Take Action! Send a FREE fax to Attorney General John Ashcroft letting him know that you support the First Amendment and oppose government surveillance of peaceful protests:



With Attorney General John Ashcroft and other anti-civil liberties extremists in the federal government trying their hardest to turn America into a surveillance state, it's time to find out just how much you know about the Orwellian technology that is all around us. The ACLU's new quiz is fun, fast and informative. Take it now and find out who's been watching you.

Take the quiz and find out, "Are You Being Watched?":



The American Civil Liberties Union presented arguments in federal court in the first case to review the constitutionality of section of the PATRIOT Act. This is the first time the Justice Department has been called upon to defend the law in court.

Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act vastly expands the power of FBI agents to secretly obtain records and personal belongings of innocent people in the United States, including citizens and permanent residents. The ACLU argued against the government's motion to dismiss its lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of six nonprofit organizations that provide a wide range of religious, medical, social and educational services to communities around the country.

"We know from our clients that the FBI is once again targeting ethnic, religious, and political minority communities disproportionately," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is arguing the case. In briefs filed earlier this month, the ACLU said that fear of the law has already caused a dramatic decline in memberships and donations at mosques and forced a church-sponsored group that aids refugees to change its record-keeping practices.

This First Amendment "chill" is reminiscent of an earlier era when the government attempted to shut down dissent by investigating groups like the NAACP and the Japanese American Citizens League, the ACLU said. Notably, those groups and other civil rights, immigrant and free speech advocates have filed briefs supporting the ACLU's challenge to the law.

The NAACP, whose members include people of Arab, Muslim and South Asian backgrounds, noted in its brief that during the 1960's, its members "feared they would lose their jobs and be attacked physically if their membership in the organization was disclosed." A government requirement that the organization disclose the names of its members "caused membership in Louisiana to drop from 12,000 to 1,700."

The threat of similar government actions today has had a similar effect on the Arab and Muslim community and organizations that serve them, the ACLU said in legal papers - all the more so because those actions take place in secret.

The case is Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor et al. v. John Ashcroft, Civil Action No. 03-72913, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division. In addition to Beeson, attorneys in the case are Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU and Moss, Michael J. Steinberg and Noel Saleh of the ACLU of Michigan.

For a complete list of the ACLU's clients and links to legal papers, go to




After a 7-year-old boy was scolded in front of his classmates and sent to a school behavioral clinic for using the word "gay," the ACLU demanded that the school expunge the boy's disciplinary records and stop restricting him from talking about his family with other students.

"I was concerned when the assistant principal called and told me my son had said a word so bad that he didn't want to repeat it over the phone," said Sharon Huff, the second-grader's mother. "But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt when my little boy came home and told me that his teacher had told him his family is a dirty word."

Marcus McLaurin answered a classmate's question about his father by explaining that he has two mothers. When the other child asked why, he told him that it was because his mother is gay. The other child then asked what that meant, and Marcus explained, "Gay is when a girl likes another girl."

Upon hearing this, Marcus's teacher scolded him in front of his classmates, telling him that "gay" is a bad word. The following week the school required Marcus to attend a special behavioral clinic, where he was forced to repeatedly write "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again."

"To tell a 7-year-old boy that he can't talk about his family not only makes that child feel confused and hurt - it violates his Constitutional right to free speech and equal treatment," said Ken Choe, a staff attorney from the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project who is handling the matter.

Read more about this case at:>

"In my life time, I have experienced 2.5 Texan Presidents, all of whom seemed to be possessed by an exaggerated need for approval from their Fathers! Of course, this is not to say, Presidents from Missouri, Kansas, Massachusetts, California, Michigan, Georgia, Illinois, Massachuestts again, or Arkansas, weren't also Possessed..." -- Dudley