National Security

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
-- Benjamin Franklin,
Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

Throughout U.S. history, "national security" has often been used as a pretext for massive violations of individual rights.

In the 1940s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Today, virtually all Americans recognize the internment as an unjustified action that compromised the fundamental freedoms that make America great.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, mobilized our country in the fight against terrorism. However, 9/11 also launched one of the most serious civil liberties crises our nation has ever seen.

The USA-Patriot Act and related government actions undercut many important checks and balances on government law enforcement and intelligence powers. The most powerful parts of this sweeping legislation take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect. For example, without a warrant and without probable cause, the FBI now has the power to access your most private medical records, your library records, and your student records ... and can prevent anyone from telling you it was done, even if it turns out to have no connection with a terrorism investigation.

In Oregon, the ACLU led the way to protect two unique Oregon laws under attack after 9/11. ORS 181.575 prohibits law enforcement from spying on people based solely on religious, political or associational activities. ORS 181.850 prohibits law enforcement from enforcing federal (civil) immigration laws when a person is not suspected of any criminal activity. As a result of a 65-member coalition, those two laws were preserved from various attempts to weaken or eliminate them in the 2003 Oregon legislature.

If we allow the interests of "national security" to take away our freedoms, we surrender what it is to be an American.

Litigation

First Appeals Court Hearing to Address Mass Surveillance

ACLU Challenges Warrantless "Backdoor" Searches

July 6, 2016 - For the first time, a federal appeals court heard oral argument on the merits in a case challenging the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international communications conducted under Section 702 of FISA, which allows the NSA to engage in warrantless surveillance of Americans who communicate with tens of thousands of targets located abroad.

In 2012, Mohammed Mohamud, a Somalia-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was convicted of plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. After his conviction, the government belatedly notified Mohamud that it had relied on Section 702 surveillance to obtain his communications without a warrant in the course of its investigation. Mohamud argued that the resulting evidence should have been suppressed and asked for a new trial. His challenge to the surveillance is now on appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, U.S. v. Mohamud, and were granted time to argue at the hearing today. 

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Court Rules No Fly List Process Is Unconstitutional and Must Be Reformed

Court Orders Government to Give Plaintiffs in ACLU Lawsuit a Chance to Clear Their Names

June 24, 2014 – In a landmark ruling, a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional the government’s procedures for people on the No Fly List to challenge their inclusion. The decision came in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans who found themselves on the list without any notice, reasons, or meaningful way to get off it. 

The judge ordered the government to create a new process that remedies these shortcomings, calling the current process “wholly ineffective” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The ruling also granted a key request in the lawsuit, ordering the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the judge. 

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Legislation

Remember Our History: Create Minoru Yasui Day in Oregon

Minoru Yasui

VICTORY! Bill to Honor Oregon Hero Minoru Yasui Passes Oregon Legislature Unanimously

UPDATE: February 24, 2016 - A bill honoring the struggle and legacy of Oregonian Minoru “Min” Yasui, who fought against the internment of Japanese Americans, passed unanimously through both the Oregon Senate and House. The legislation designates March 28 of each year as Minoru Yasui Day. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.

“With so much anti-immigrant rhetoric in the news, it’s refreshing that Oregon legislators came together across the aisle to support Minoru Yasui Day,” said Kimberly McCullough, ACLU of Oregon’s legislative director. “Min’s story is a reminder that we must remain vigilant to protect freedom for all people.”

1,393 supporters signed an ACLU of Oregon petition to create Minoru Yasui Day.

“Minoru Yasui has made all Oregonians and all Americans proud,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D - Salem, after the unanimous vote today.

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PRIVACY: Prohibit Unwarranted Access to Electronic Communications and Location Information (SB 640)

Electronic communication – through email, cell phones and social media – has increasingly eclipsed postal mail and other hard-copy methods as our primary means of communication. Unfortunately, some government agencies interpret our outdated privacy laws to allow them to intercept and access a treasure trove of information about who you are, where you go, and what you do – the information being collected by search engines, social networking sites, and other websites every day.

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Other

Federal Court Sides With ACLU in No Fly List Lawsuit

Court Recognizes Due Process Rights of Americans on List

August 29, 2013 – A federal court in Portland, Oregon ruled late yesterday that constitutional rights are at stake when the government places Americans on the No Fly List, agreeing with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. That suit challenges the process for attempting to get off the list as unfair, inadequate, and unconstitutional. The decision also asked the ACLU and the government to submit additional information about the No Fly List redress procedure in order to help the court decide the ultimate question of whether it satisfies the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

"This decision is a critically important step towards vindicating the due process rights of Americans on the No Fly List," said ACLU Staff Attorney Nusrat Choudhury, one of the attorneys who argued the case in June. "For the first time, a federal court has recognized that when the government bans Americans from flying and smears them as suspected terrorists, it deprives them of constitutionally protected liberties, and they must have a fair process to clear their names. The No Fly List procedures violate due process because the government refuses to provide any explanation or a hearing for innocent Americans to challenge their inclusion, and we look forward to making that case to the court."

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ACLU in Court Friday for No Fly List Challenge

Lawsuit Argues List Violates Constitution's Due Process Guarantee

June 20, 2013 - PORTLAND - The American Civil Liberties Union will be in federal court tomorrow asking a judge to declare unconstitutional the government's practice of banning people from flying without giving them any notice, reasons, or meaningful way to clear their names.

"We're asking the court to finally put a check on the government's use of a blacklist that denies Americans the ability to fly without giving them the explanation or fair hearing that the Constitution requires. It's a question of basic fairness," said ACLU Staff Attorney Nusrat Choudhury, one of the ACLU attorneys who will argue the case Friday in Portland. "It does not make our country safer to ban people from flying without giving them an after-the-fact redress process that allows them to correct the errors that led to their mistaken inclusion on the list."

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