President Obama Rightly Emphasizes Need For Better Intelligence, But Erroneously Defends State Of Terror Watch Lists
Government Should Protect Civil Liberties While Protecting Safety, Says ACLU
WASHINGTON - President
Obama today addressed airport security in remarks responding to the
Christmas Day attack on a plane headed for Detroit.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"We welcome President Obama's
emphasis on better information and intelligence sharing between
government agencies. Our limited security resources should be invested
where they will do the most good and have the best chance of thwarting
attacks, and that means developing competent intelligence and law
enforcement agencies that will stop terrorists before they get to the
"However, we take issue with the
president's assertion that the terror watch list system isn't broken.
The current watch lists, which contain over a million names, are a
mess, keeping innocent travelers from flying while failing to identify
true terrorist threats. To be effective, no-fly lists must focus on
true terrorists who pose a genuine threat to flight safety.
"We are also deeply troubled by the
administration's decision to subject the citizens of 14 nations who are
flying to the United States to intensified screening. Using national
origin or religion as proxies for suspicion is nothing less than racial
profiling. Such profiling is ineffective, unconstitutional and counter
to American values. Instead of profiling, we should be focusing on
evidence-based, targeted investigations based on individualized
suspicion, which would be both more consistent with our values and more
effective at making us safer.
"The president spoke of using
smarter screening technology at airports. We hope the administration
recognizes that full body screening machines pose serious threats to
privacy with uncertain benefits to our safety. The machines should only
be used when individualized suspicion suggests they are the best method
for screening specific passengers, not as an automatic procedure for
"The government must indeed work
zealously to make us as safe as possible and to take every reasonable
step to make sure security breaches do not happen. But we need to act
wisely, and that means not trading away our rights and liberties for
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.