Last updated on: 10/5/2007 | Author:

Does the ACLU Undermine the War on Terror?

PRO (yes)


Thomas Joscelyn, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in a Nov. 17, 2009 articled for titled “Al Qaeda’s Civil Liberties Union,” wrote:

“The ACLU has worked diligently to undermine America’s stance in what was formerly known as the ‘war on terror,’ and has even been willing to disseminate propaganda on behalf of our jihadist enemies.

If you think this is hyperbole or an exaggeration, consider a video released by the ACLU earlier this month titled ‘Justice Denied: Voices from Guantanamo.’

As you would expect, the video portrays Gitmo in the worst possible light. But it goes well beyond any semblance of rational criticism. As Sahab, al Qaeda’s media arm, could very well have produced it.

The short video is pure anti-American propaganda, starring men who have dedicated their lives to the jihadist cause.”

Nov. 18, 2009


Bill O’Reilly, MA, host of The O’Reilly Factor, stated during his Feb. 21, 2005 show, “Is the ACLU Trying to Undermine the U.S. Military?,” on his Talking Points program that:

“Talking Points firmly believes the ACLU wants to undermine the military effort in the war on terror. The ACLU opposes the Patriot Act, Guantanamo detentions without lawyers, military tribunals, coercive interrogation, the war in Iraq, and pretty much all aggressive action against terror.

Now I’d really like to know exactly how the ACLU would wage war against terrorists or if it even would. Unfortunately, the ACLU does not answer those kinds of questions, being too busy criticizing any and all action taken into terror war.”

Feb. 21, 2005


Alan Sears, JD, President, CEO and General Counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, stated in his Sep. 26, 2005 interview with the Front Page Mag website:

“In their selective comments about the war on terror, the ACLU… has used its PR machine to paint America as a rogue nation with little or no regard for human rights, therefore empowering our enemies and to push the ACLU’s agenda to implement the use of international law to further undermine the U.S. Constitution…

Much of what the ACLU is doing not only fuels those who seek to destroy America, but it also undermines and subverts the very Constitution that millions have fought and died to protect.”

Sep. 26, 2005


Marci Hamilton, JD, Professor of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, wrote in her Sep. 9, 2002 article, “The Constitutional Threats We Face From Without But Also From Within, a Year after 9/11,” in that:

“In response [to] the war on terrorism, the ACLU has gone into overdrive, telling the American people that the Administration is a reincarnation of the Star Chamber [former English court of law known for its misuse of power], and a danger to the Constitution.

The ACLU is acting irresponsibly. Without security clearance, it cannot possibly know how imminent the threat really is. Nevertheless, it is imploring the courts to take actions that could threaten our right to life and liberty by binding the government’s ability to protect us through exigent means.”

Sep. 9, 2002


Heather MacDonald, JD, John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in an Aug. 04, 2004 article titled “Unreality Activists” in the National Review that:

“According to the ACLU, the government’s ‘war on terror’ (scare quotes in the original) is simply a charade cooked up by the Bush administration and John Ashcroft to enslave the country. In the ACLU’s worldview, it is the administration, not the 9/11 attacks, that has ‘created a climate of fear’ nationally. Al Qaeda? Never heard of it. In all the documents that have poured from the ACLU’s presses since the funding flap became public, you’ll never discover that what the ACLU feverishly refers to as ‘blacklists’ are in fact lists of suspected terrorists and terror organizations. The ACLU can barely bring itself to use the word ‘terrorism’ without putting the offensive phrase in scare quotes…

The denial by the Left that Islamic death cells threaten the U.S. clears up one mystery. To outside observers, the refusal to balance the putative claims of unfettered freedom against the desirability of, say, remaining alive can seem the most perverse aspect of civil-libertarian ideology. But civil-rights absolutism makes more sense once you understand that the civil libertarians have apparently convinced themselves that terrorism is just a Republican bugaboo.

Such fantasies make for great fundraising pitches. The ACLU has been raking in the dough — and not just from payroll deductions — since 9/11. But the Left’s blindness to the reality of foreign enemies should utterly disqualify it from government influence. That is not the case. Civil libertarians and privacy advocates exercise veto power over government research in the crucial fields of data mining and computer technology. The Department of Homeland Security recently cancelled a program to screen airline passengers for terrorist connections because privacy advocates objected. The next time a public official feels inclined to listen to a rights lobbyist, he should administer a simple sanity test: Do you believe that terrorism exists?”

Aug. 4, 2004

CON (no)


Sheila Suess Kennedy, JD, Professor and Director of Public Affairs Programs in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, in an Oct. 17, 2017 email to, wrote:

“No. The organization does, however, insist that government actions taken to protect Americans from terrorism be consistent with our Constitution and the rule of law.

Acts of terrorism are, as the term itself indicates, intended to terrorize. Unfortunately, when people become fearful, they sometimes endorse measures that are ultimately self-defeating; the arrest of ‘suspicious’ people or the conduct of intrusive searches without probable cause, profiling individuals from certain ethnic groups based simply upon the way they look, ‘interrogation’ methods that are really torture outlawed by the Geneva conventions, and similar practices that are inconsistent with the 4th Amendment and with constitutional due process guarantees.

Research confirms that these panicky measures ultimately make Americans less safe. Not only do they encourage lawless behavior by some law enforcement officials, but they deepen divisions within the American population. Unconstitutional tactics create resentment and discourage co-operation with the authorities, and actually hinder the search for terrorists. Worse, as members of terrorist cells operating in hostile nations learn of American behaviors inconsistent with our own rules (Abu Ghraib comes to mind), they use those behaviors as centerpieces of their propaganda, as tools to recruit more terrorists, and as an excuse to mistreat Americans they capture.”

Oct. 17, 2017


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wrote in its Sep. 20, 2002 publication titled “Civil Liberties After 9-11: The ACLU Defends Freedom” that:

“It is important to understand that the people who planned, financed and executed the Sept. 11 atrocities despise our values as much as they despise our wealth and power… If we are intimidated to the point of restricting our freedoms and undermining our democracy, the terrorists will have won a resounding victory indeed…

Long-term vigilance is essential, because the war on terrorism, unlike conventional past wars, will not come to a visible, decisive end any time soon. Any civil-liberties restrictions imposed may be with us for a very long time… The war on terror is also a war of ideas if we are really serious about preventing further attacks, it is not enough to become better spies…

Americans question whether the new anti-terrorism laws are upsetting the system of checks and balances that are fundamental to our democracy, they are fulfilling a civic responsibility. And when others decry the detention of hundreds of immigrants for reasons that have nothing to do with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they are performing a necessary task.”

Sep. 20, 2002


Anthony Romero, JD, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in an Oct. 16, 2002 ACLU press release that:

“The ACLU campaign aims to promote a public debate about proposals and measures that violate civil liberties without increasing our security. American history is replete with examples of unnecessary and harmful restrictions on liberty taken in the heat of war. Each of these was later discredited and eventually rescinded. The challenge before us today is to resist the fear that leads to repression and to promote liberty at the very time it is under attack…

By restricting liberty without significantly increasing security, Mr. [Former U.S. Attorney General John] Ashcroft is sending a false and dangerous message to the American people. His message is that Americans must choose whether they want to be ‘safe or free.’ The ACLU, on the other hand, believes that America can be both ‘safe and free.’

The ACLU does not underestimate the threat to national security, nor do we shrink from the difficult task of defending liberty when it is under attack.”

Oct. 16, 2002


Nadine Strossen, JD, President of the American Civil Liberties Union, stated in a Sep. 8, 2006 forum titled “Life, Liberty and Politics after 9/11” that:

“The countless times I have been asked to discuss ‘balancing liberty and security post-911’ underscores a predominant assumption… that civil liberties were a luxury that belonged to an irretrievably bygone era, and which henceforth all rational people will gladly forsake in order to preserve the lives of ourselves and our loved ones, as well as our Western democratic societies…

I am not suggesting that we don’t now face all-too-real terrorist threats. Rather, believing that liberty and security are, on the whole, mutually reinforcing rather than antagonistic concerns, I am convinced that scapegoating civil liberties as a purported solution to the real dangers we face will only make us less free, not more safe.”

Sep. 8, 2006


Nat Hentoff, columnist, wrote in his Jan. 17, 2002 article titled “The ACLU on the Ramparts” published in the Village Voice:

“The ACLU has, from the first Ashcroft-Bush abridgements of the Constitution, led the resistance. During the alleged congressional debate on the Ashcroft-Bush USA Patriot Act, the ACLU’s Washington staff, directed by Laura Murphy, worked 14-hour days to research the constitutional damage contained in each significant detail of that mephitic bill. Alas, hardly any member of Congress appears to have read the subsequent press releases, but some journalists have.

When the Ashcroft dragnet imprisoned over 1000 immigrants in hopes of finding links to terrorism, Romero [Executive Director of the ACLU] decided to ‘paint a human face’ on these people held in secret, transferred from prison to prison to keep their lawyers and families from finding them, and otherwise stripped of elementary due-process rights.”

Jan. 17, 2002