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ACLU: Better Than Trump, But Clinton's Rights Record Still Cause for Concern

From immigrant detention to drones to mass surveillance, ACLU lists Hillary Clinton's "areas for improvement"

"Unless...Clinton changes course, her presidency will further entrench the dangerous 'global war' paradigm initiated under President [George W.] Bush and expanded under President [Barack] Obama through the continued use of lethal force outside the limits posed by international law and the Constitution." (Photo: ACLU Clinton Memos)

The ACLU's constitutional analysis of Hillary Clinton's political record and policy proposals came out Wednesday, and it looks a lot different from the one the civil liberties group issued in July for Clinton's rival, GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Indeed, the summer's report found that Trump, if elected, would be a "one-man constitutional crisis," as Common Dreams reported.

Democratic nominee Clinton, on the other hand, "has become a strong defender of Americans' civil rights and liberties in most respects," the ACLU says (pdf) of her nearly four-decade political career. Specifically, the organization points to her stated support for reproductive rights, ending mass incarceration, voting rights, and the LGBTQ community. 

However, the ACLU also highlights "two areas for improvement: immigration and national security." And those are big areas, covering everything from immigrant detention to drone killings to unwarranted surveillance of the American people.

On immigration, the ACLU says the next administration "must do better...than the Obama administration, which has adopted draconian policies and practices that have violated basic due process norms."

Specifically, the group demands Clinton, if elected:

  • end family detention;
  • end immigration raids on asylum seekers;
  • guarantee the due process rights of asylum seekers;
  • end the use of private prison corporations for immigration detention;
  • end the mass incarceration of immigrants; and
  • rein in the rampant Fourth and Fifth Amendment abuses carried out by Customs and Border Protection officers and agents.

Meanwhile, the report zooms in on Clinton's hawkish tendencies, noting that she "has defended the Obama administration's expansive targeted killing program as lawful and effective."


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In fact, the ACLU warns: "Unless...Clinton changes course, her presidency will further entrench the dangerous 'global war' paradigm initiated under President [George W.] Bush and expanded under President [Barack] Obama through the continued use of lethal force outside the limits posed by international law and the Constitution."

To that end, the analysis calls for a future President Clinton to:

  • end a targeted-killing program that violates international law and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments;
  • revisit the broader strategic, diplomatic, and rights impact of the targeted-killing program; and
  • commit to not only take credible outside reports into account when releasing lethal strike statistics...but to investigate and publicly explain such strikes to the fullest extent possible.

On the matter of mass surveillance, the ACLU gives Clinton limited credit for calling for greater National Security Agency (NSA) transparency but notes "she has not yet taken a clear position on the government's authority to surveil Americans' communications without a warrant."

She must do so, according to the group, and what's more, Clinton should:

  • release or endorse a legislative proposal to reform or end Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act; and
  • end unlawful warrantless surveillance under Executive Order 12333, the primary authority under which the NSA gathers foreign intelligence.

Lastly, the ACLU's so-called "Clinton Memos" critique the former secretary of state's support for "Obama administration programs and policies that risk stigmatizing and discriminating against Muslim communities, cast suspicion on law-abiding Americans, view them unfairly through a security lens, and subject them to unjustified surveillance."

To avoid such outcomes, the ACLU recommends Clinton:

  • ensure that federal Countering Violent Extremism programs do not undermine the freedom and equality guaranteed by the First and Fifth Amendments;
  • put an end to social media monitoring programs that threaten the freedoms that the First Amendment protects; and
  • reform the federal watchlisting system.

"If elected, Secretary Clinton can restore basic constitutional principles to the way our government conducts itself at home and abroad," said ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero on Wednesday. "With her strong track record on so many issues, we are asking Clinton to make much needed and doable changes to immigration and national security programs that would not only make our country better and safer, but put the values of fairness, equality, and due process of law at the fore of her administration."

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