Friend of the blog and my good buddy Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU’s National Security Project has an excellent summation of what the ACLU is doing about the NSA, Prism, etc (they are also doing a lot of work on drones and extra-judicial killings). The ACLU has a personal stake in this too, as Brett explains
The ACLU’s complaint filed today explains that the dragnet surveillance the government is carrying out under Section 215 infringes upon the ACLU’s First Amendment rights, including the twin liberties of free expression and free association. The nature of the ACLU’s work—in areas like access to reproductive services, racial discrimination, the rights of immigrants, national security, and more—means that many of the people who call the ACLU wish to keep their contact with the organization confidential. Yet if the government is collecting a vast trove of ACLU phone records—and it has reportedly been doing so for as long as seven years—many people may reasonably think twice before communicating with us.
One thing I really like is the right of free association. Obviously- who doesn’t like that right? But I think it is very clever of the ACLU to be using it. We live in an age where so many meetings of any type are no longer done face-to-face. Thinking that there could be a mole in every conversation dampens our ability to speak as political animals. The argument that it doesn’t matter if you aren’t doing anything wrong doesn’t hold water. For one thing, we don’t always know who decides what is right. But on a more basic level, conversation shouldn’t be hampered by the fear of speaking correctly or the terror or being misinterpreted.
I also want to take a moment here to praise the ACLU. For decades they’ve been a punching bag on the right, despite their firm commitment to Constitutional principles. There are few bigger applause lines for a Republican politician than to sneer “ACLU” to a crowd. So it must be somewhat gratifying for them to see that, suddenly, with Obama in charge, Republicans are concerned about the national security state. The ACLU has been on this for a long time. They filed lawsuits against George Bush, and were pilloried for it, held up (again) as traitors, commies, terrorist-lovers, un-American, etc. Now the right has found some common cause, albeit in a cynical matter. But I would ask them this: just remember you are late to the party. You are welcome, but be decent enough to find a quiet corner and don’t pretend that you invited everyone, and for god’s sake, don’t insult your hosts. They’ve been here the whole time.