The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;

In Aftermath Of Attempted Attack, ACLU Advocates Effective Security That Respects Privacy


the aftermath of the attempted terrorist attack on a Northwest plane on
Christmas Day, there has been controversy over what kind of security
measures, such as body scanners and watch lists, are advisable. The
American Civil Liberties Union calls for the implementation of
effective security policies that pose the most minimal threat possible
to Americans' privacy.

"The attempted attack on Christmas
Day could easily have ended tragically, and we're all grateful it
didn't. The government must find out what went wrong and what more can
be done to protect our nation against terrorism," said Michael German,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office policy counsel and former FBI agent.
"But while it's important to react quickly, it's also important to
react wisely and to adopt procedures that will be both truly effective
and the least invasive to Americans' privacy. Electronic
strip-searching of innocent people, racial profiling and bloated,
poorly managed terrorist watch lists do not stop terrorist attacks, but
they do infringe upon Americans' rights and waste valuable resources."

Full body scanners present serious
threats to personal privacy and are of unclear effectiveness. Plastic
explosives can be hidden from them as can explosives hidden in body
cavities, which Al Qaeda has already used to launch attacks. Body
scanners produce strikingly graphic images, creating pictures of
virtually naked bodies that reveal not only sexual organs but also
intimate medical details such as colostomy bags and mastectomy scars.
That degree of examination amounts to a significant - and for some
people humiliating - assault on personal privacy to which travelers in
a free country should not automatically be subjected. If these machines
are used, it must only be when the facts suggest it is absolutely
necessary and not on all travelers; in a non-discriminatory fashion
assuring the strongest degree of privacy possible; and when subject to
strict oversight to prevent against the misuse of the images.

The current terror watch lists,
which are bloated and keep innocent travelers from flying, must be
seriously revamped. Their unmanageability distracts from and fails to
identify true terrorist threats, as the recent event demonstrates. To
be effective, no-fly lists must focus on true terrorists who pose a
genuine threat to flight safety.

"We must invest our security
resources in investigations based upon reasonable suspicion of
wrongdoing so we can more effectively identify and stop attackers
before they get to any airport. We must also hold our law enforcement
and intelligence agencies accountable to ensure that the vast powers
they've been given over the past nine years are being used effectively
and responsibly," said German. "While we must work fervently to provide
the best security possible, Americans can't afford to be complacent
about giving up civil liberties, especially to ineffective policies
that don't make us safer. Providing for security and liberty is not a
zero-sum game. In America we should strive to be both safe and free."

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

(212) 549-2666