“Where’s the ACLU?” — The TSA Edition

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Over at Hit & Run, I’ve put up a long post debunking claims from the right that the ACLU has been silent on TSA abuses.

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30 Responses to ““Where’s the ACLU?” — The TSA Edition”

  1. #1 |  Mattocracy | 

    Right wingers are more concerned with discrediting liberals than actually stopping government abuses.

    And what a gem this is from Teach-
    “Remember the so-called “domestic wiretapping” issue, which was anything but, and, of course, not actually intrusive?”

    Not actually intrusive? Do hacks know that they’re full of shit, or are they so full of shit they can’t see their hypocrisy for what it is?

  2. #2 |  Chuchundra | 

    There goes your Koch Brothers stipend, Radley.

  3. #3 |  Nick T | 

    #1 very good point, if you’re not concerned about Warrantless Spying on Americans through phones and emails, then you really should STFU about civil liberites abuses anywhere else. Because realy, at that point, you don’t care about civil liberties, you’re just a guy who doesn’t like having his junk touched. There IS a difference.

  4. #4 |  Joe | 

    I have not noticed a lot of comments from the right about the ACLU and the TSA. So I did not know it was even a controversy till Radley brought it up. I have noticed a lot of comments about the ACLU and its general lack of support for the 2nd amendment. One of my very conservative coworkers keeps insisting that if you go to the ACLU headquarters they have the Bill of Rights in bronze letters on the wall but the 2nd Amendment has gone missing–but I suspect that is an urban myth.

    The ACLU when it is fighting for individual rights is fighting the good fight. That is true for all who do that, even if they are wrong on other points.

    I see plenty of hypocrisy from left and right when it comes to supporting those aspects of government that benefit them vs. opposing those that do not. True libertarians are probably least hypocritical of all, but can be prickly on debating who is most libertarian of all.

  5. #5 |  André | 

    #1: I remember reading that the warrantless domestic surveillance involved a lot of surveillance officers listening in on Americans having phone sex. This is just a small price to pay to keep us safe from terrorist threats.

    For example,
    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=5987804&page=2
    There’s plenty more if you google.

  6. #6 |  Ron | 

    While the ACLU has made a little noise about the TSA (a few critical blog posts, a couple of FOIA requests, some expressions of concern — big whooping deal) where is the litigation? Oh. They are having people “Fill out forms”, for *possible* future litigation. Wow. Filling out forms. I’m sure THAT has the TSA shaking in their boots. Let me know when the ACLU actually DOES something in the courts, as opposed to half-hearted other than jawboning in the media on TSA abuses.

  7. #7 |  Radley Balko | 

    Oh. They are having people “Fill out forms”, for *possible* future litigation. Wow. Filling out forms. I’m sure THAT has the TSA shaking in their boots. Let me know when the ACLU actually DOES something in the courts, as opposed to half-hearted other than jawboning in the media on TSA abuses.

    Do you have any idea how the legal system works? Do you understand that before you can file a civil rights suit, you actually have to find a party whose rights were violated, and who wants to go forward with the suit? Do you realize it’s only been six weeks since the new procedures were implemented? Do you understand that finding parties for a suit is part of the purpose of collecting reports? Do you know that the ACLU has filed numerous other suits on behalf of people victimized by TSA (including the Ron Paul/Campaign for Liberty staffer who was detained because he was carrying too much cash)?

    Did you actually read the post and follow the links, or are you choosing to remain willfully ignorant?

    These are rhetorical questions.

  8. #8 |  Nick T | 

    #6 Ron, don’t be a dumbass. These things have been in mass use for about 1 month, and the ACLU should be filing suit right now? Please.

    Do you have any understanding of legal history? Obviously not. Winning major cases (School Integration, Inter-racial marriage, Miranda warnings) and even losing major cases (Raich v. Gonzalez) is about finding a plaintiff that gives you the very best facts to work with, and building your case. You may want a sympathetic plaintiff to make the most humanistic argument for your case (inter-racial marriage) or you may want an unsypathetic plaintiff to establish a stong and clear precedent that can’t be distinguished (Miranda). It’s about building lasting rulings, not just filing lawsuits willy-nilly.

    Besides, you can’t just file a lawsuit against something that is illegal, you have to have a person that was harmed by the law, and present their personal case. Courts won’t strike down laws they don’t like just because someone pops up, you need good plaintiffs who can make sympathetic cases and who don’t lend themselves to arguments where the government claims a particular need in the particular case.

    Look at the Gun Rights cases. The plaintiffs (not the ACLU) started in DC where the 2nd Amendment would be strongest and then used that precedent to incoproate the 2nd Amendment to the states. The ACLU doesn’t file lawsuit so fools like you can be impressed with their initiative. Please tell us how long before the ACLU sued over warrantless spying. Go head.

  9. #9 |  Dan | 

    I was wondering if the ACLU is involved in the notorious case in N.J. where a guy is doing 7 years for having legally owned firearms?

  10. #10 |  Mattocracy | 

    #8 Jon-thanks for proving my point in my previous post.

  11. #11 |  Mattocracy | 

    Shit…#6 Jon. Sorry Nick.

  12. #12 |  Nick T | 

    #9 To be clear, I think the 2nd Amendment is a spot where the ACLU is ripe for criticism. I think just strategically they should always be arguing that the Bill of Rights – every piece of it – applies as liberally as possible. Many of te chapters are now coming around to that side especially after the recent ruling.

    There’s plent to criticize there, but the simple fact is no successful agency who focuses on advocacy through litigation can afford or would be wise to file lawsuits quickly and frequently.

    Also, collecting complaints and requesting information is a lot more than almost anyone else has done over the TSA issue, unless you count bloviating (which is important in its own way) as really doing something.

  13. #13 |  JP Uno | 

    Simple, easy question for those who think the ACLU is a bad organization: Can you name another organization in America that has done as much unpopular work on civil liberties over such a long period of time? Most of the arguments I see from the right against the organization focus on what cases the ACLU fails to take on, but like any organization, they have limited time, resources, and clout. Rather than complaining about how the ACLU doesn’t have the exact same priorities as you at all times, perhaps you would be better served to consider the alternative wherein the most powerful and influential civil rights organization in America no longer exists.

  14. #14 |  SJE | 

    Aside from the issue of the ACLU and the TSA, the real shame here is that too much of the right is interested in bloviating instead of doing something.
    - Instead of whining about the ACLU, actually go do something (like give money to the Institute of Justice, a great civil liberties organization).
    - Instead of whining about “the liberal media” you need to actually do good reporting and newsmaking. It does exist on the right, and in libertarians, but too much “news” on the right is just bloviating. There is bloviating on the left, but one Olbermann cannot compete with the heavyweight blowhards of the right.

  15. #15 |  BSK | 

    Radley-

    This is great. Rather than engage in counter-hyperbole, you simply present the facts of the matter and let them do the talking. Well done. Please update us here if you get any sort of response, formal or informal, from these assclowns.

  16. #16 |  Boy | 

    I think the point made by Ron is more than legitimate; the NEWEST “enhanced” screening techniques are “NEW” (as was pointed out in primo-snarky fashion) but the TSA has been in existance for almost 10 years now, and not only acting in contravention of the 4th Amendment for the entirety of that time but doing so agressively.

    Can’t find a suitable witness? Give me a break. There’s 1000′s of them.

    This newest “enhanced screening” has yet to provide a suitable, credible, or willing face to front the suit??? What kind of Kool-Aid are we drinking here? It takes the ACLU (hyperbole alert) about 15 minutes to file suit in defense of just about any extreme-fringe element, but they’re still “collecting data” in regards to the class-action opportunity available to them.

    Plenty of class-action lawsuits — an uncountable number, actually — have been filed without being specific as to the names of all the members of the class action. (To be snarky, that’s actually the purpose of the class-action: multiple names don’t need to be published. You need ONE injured party.)

    And that injured party, no matter how you define it, is not hard to come up with today in regards to the existance and practices of the TSA.

  17. #17 |  Radley Balko | 

    I think the point made by Ron is more than legitimate; the NEWEST “enhanced” screening techniques are “NEW” (as was pointed out in primo-snarky fashion) but the TSA has been in existance for almost 10 years now, and not only acting in contravention of the 4th Amendment for the entirety of that time but doing so agressively.

    Can’t find a suitable witness? Give me a break. There’s 1000′s of them.

    Sigh. Another comment from someone who clearly didn’t click through links or check the ACLU website. The ACLU has filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of people victimized by TSA over the last ten years. Yes, including white people. Including non-Muslims. Again, most notably, they sued on behalf of the Campaign for Liberty/Ron Paul staffer who was unlawfully detained a couple years ago.

    It takes the ACLU (hyperbole alert) about 15 minutes to file suit in defense of just about any extreme-fringe element, but they’re still “collecting data” in regards to the class-action opportunity available to them.

    That’s not mere hyperbole, you’re speaking from a position of complete and utter ignorance. If you actually want to win a suit, it takes time to find a suitable party, to check out their story, and write up and file a complaint. There’s also the very real possibility that the ACLU has decided that this is a policy matter — that the constitutional law on these searches is settled and unlikely to be changed by way of a lawsuit. In that case, they may have decided that public pressure and documenting and publicizing abuses is the better course of action. (Note that no conservative group has yet filed a suit on behalf of passengers yet, either, though the Rutherford Institute (one of the most principled organizations around, IMHO, did file suit on behalf of two pilots.)

    It’s rather stunning how willing some people are to stick to their biases even in the face of overwhelming evidence disproving them.

  18. #18 |  supercat | 

    For the ACLU to be interested in someone’s case, the person has to be guilty. The ACLU consistently ignores innocent people who are thrown under the wheels of justice. If someone like Ryan Frederick doesn’t have the right to defend himself from robbers (the men who attacked his home, by their own admission, deliberately parked all their marked police vehicles away from the property, and did not identify themselves as “police” with volume sufficient to be heard by someone outside the property–must less someone inside) what meaningful rights does anyone have?

    If Constitutional rights mean anything, they mean that government actions which violate them are ILLEGITIMATE. The way to stop grossly unreasonable searches and seizures is not merely to exclude evidence gained thereby (which protects guilty people substantially more than innocents) but rather to recognize that people who break into other people’s houses illegitimately with the intention of accosting the occupants therein are robbers, and they should be treated as such. Det. Shivers’ accomplices should be prosecuted for robbery and murder, while Frederick should be walking free.

  19. #19 |  BSK | 

    A few more thoughts:

    1.) Usually, when pursuing such litigation, one can opt to do it well or opt to do it fast… but rarely both. If you really believe that the ACLU is a potent weapon in this fight, then give it time. If you’re just looking to take potshots… well, you’ll do that regardless of what is happening.

    2.) Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Perhaps the ACLU is guilty of some hypocrisy or inconsistencies or doesn’t share all the ideals that folks here do. But aren’t they still closer to your end of the spectrum than the other? Do you really want to risk alienating a group that has done a lot of good for individual liberties simply because they aren’t perfect?

  20. #20 |  OBTC | 

    “It’s rather stunning how willing some people are to stick to their biases even in the face of overwhelming evidence disproving them.”

    Truer words.

    My 70 yr old mother still scoffs at the mere mention of the ACLU – but if you asked her, she couldn’t tell you why.

    I think hating the ACLU is just part of the right-wing rhetoric that just keeps going around and around – no one knows why they hate it, they just do.

  21. #21 |  BSK | 

    OBTC-

    I’m sure some hate it out of blind loyalty, but I’m sure many others know *exactly* why they hate it.

  22. #22 |  Matt | 

    Not meaning to stray off topic, but I thought this article ( http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/12/14/mother_cant_fathom_why_teen_stowed_away/?page=full ) was an interesting data point about TSA “security”. It concerns the sad case of a teenager who stowed away in the wheel well of a 737 and likely died of hypoxia because the wheel wells are unpressurized, then his body fell out when the landing gear opened on the approach. Quoting, “While it is unclear how the teenager bypassed security, Smith said the TSA exempts ground workers from the same security checkpoints, with metal detectors and X-ray machines, that pilots, flight attendants, and passengers are required to pass through.”

    So when you’re going through security theater, keep in mind that “backstage” there are huge holes a terrorist could get through.

  23. #23 |  Charlie O | 

    I am, proudly, a card carrying member of the ACLU. And have been for many years. There is a sticker on my front proclaiming the same. It has been my experience over those many years, that, unfortunately, most Americans have no clue what the ACLU is or what it does. As OBTC stated, his mother hates the ACLU, but doesn’t know why. It is just an extension of the overwhelming ignorance and stupidity of most Americans. This is a sad, sad country when it comes to informed opinion when you consider the access that exists for getting information.

    Good article Mr. Balko. Kudos.

  24. #24 |  Matt | 

    “There is a sticker on my front proclaiming… ”

    Where exactly is that sticker, Charlie? :-)

  25. #25 |  Charlie O | 

    front door. Brain works faster than my fingers.

  26. #26 |  SJE | 

    Charlie: I was hoping you could get it on your front, as in “want to come inside and see my ACLU membership?”

  27. #27 |  albatross | 

    Is there any reason to think that Teach is trying to have an honest discussion and simply and inexplicably getting it wrong? Wouldn’t a more plausible explanation be that he has a propaganda goal (bashing the ACLU) and is utterly indifferent to whether the things he says in support of that goal happen to be true or false?

  28. #28 |  libarbarian | 

    Got to love the way so many responses to your article are of the form : “Well, The fact that we have been proven wrong only proves our point.”

    Rightie: “THE ACLU isn’t speaking out on this”
    Intelligent person: “Actually, yes they are and here is the proof”
    Rightie: “Well, they’re not doing something”
    Intelligent person: “Actually, yes they are and here is the proof”
    Rightie: “Well! The FACT is that they are not doing as much as I imagine they might for a an illegal Mexican Lesbian Wiccan so I am STILL justified in hating them!!!”

  29. #29 |  LibertarianBlue | 

    I think all of us Libertarians realize that the Conservatives (both Neo and Paleo) have no interest in stopping statism only left-statism. Even though some speak out against the TSA they just turn around and say that only certain people should be subjugated to government thuggery namely Arabs, Muslims and Im sure Paleos/Buchanites will want to throw Hispanics in that category as well.

    I have my beefs with the ACLU as well with their lack of support of the 2nd and defending illegal immigrants in certain situations but this again shows the difference between a Libertarian and a Conservative both Neo and Paleo.

  30. #30 |  Ron | 

    I have to admit I was a hasty to criticise the ACLU on its fight against the TSA. On the issue of the new aggressive grope-downs, I have to concede it takes time to indentify possible test cases. I have some fundamental disagreements with several ACLU positions on their key issues (as identified on their website) but on this issue they are on the correct side of the argument and seem to be doing what they can. My apologies to Radley and readers.

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