The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it plans to step up its criticism of what it says is the US government's assault on individual freedoms with a series of print ads attacking US Attorney General John Ashcroft.
The advertisements paint Ashcroft as a zealous ideologue who has hacked away at American civil liberties using post-September 11 concerns about national security as a pretext.
The advertisement accuses Ashcroft of "shamelessly using the events of September 11 as a subterfuge," to undermine the rights enshrined in the US Bill of Rights, such as freedom of speech and association.
"Today, the government can get a secret warrant to search your home without telling you until long afterwards," the advertisement reads.
"Today, the government can monitor your Internet use, read your emails, examine your online purchases with minimal judicial oversight. Today, you can be detained without access to a lawyer, without being charged with a crime. "Today, John Ashcroft has authorized the FBI to monitor your political activities, to send agents into your house of worship. We can only guess what tomorrow will bring."
The "hard-hitting," ad, which will begin running in a selection of national current affairs and political magazines later this month, concludes with an exhortation to the American people to "stop the Ashcroft assault on our civil liberties."
The ACLU may well be hoping to capitalize on an unprecedented surge in support for the organization amid the judicial clamp-down on suspected terrorist supporters, particularly in the Muslim and Arab communities, and the wider erosion of personal freedoms as a result of the USA Patriot Act.
ACLU's membership has surged by 15 percent, to 378,000 members and supporters nationwide since the attacks on New York and Washington, the organization said in a statement Thursday.
The ad is slated to run in The Nation and The Economist later this month and eight other magazines or periodicals in the five months thereafter including The Advocate, Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, Harper's Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, The Progressive and Science.
The ACLU, founded in 1920, is a private organization supported largely by donations and grants. It has been described as a law firm with but a single client: the Bill of Rights, or first 10 amendments to the US Constitution guaranteeing individual rights and freedoms.
The ACLU often incurs public and government wrath because of its aggressive defense of highly unpopular defendants, movements and causes.
In fact, it defends no individual or group, but rather the right or freedom being threatened, on the premise that if an unpopular defendant's rights can be trampled on with popular approval, than the right itself is weakened for everyone.
© Copyright 2003 AFP