The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312;

ACLU Testifies on Preserving Free Speech and Privacy Rights in Online Counterterrorism Practices


American Civil Liberties
Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero testified today before a key
House Homeland Security subcommittee about the importance of steadfastly
preserving privacy rights and free speech while continuing effective
counterterrorism efforts online. While acknowledging the challenges
posed by the cyber-revolution in protecting the Internet, Romero urged
members of the Homeland Security Committee to not only allow the
Internet to remain an unfettered place of freedom and anonymity but to
ensure the free speech and privacy rights of its users remain intact.

The Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk
Assessment also heard testimony from legal scholars as well as other
First Amendment and civil liberties experts.

"If we trade our civil liberties for the promise of security, we'll end
up with neither," said Romero. "Not only does it fly in the face of
American values to allow censorship in any form, it also is
counterproductive to preventing the extremist violence. Congress must be
aware of its constitutional limits when it comes to fighting the
so-called 'war on terror' online. Only with a clear commitment to our
values and rule of law can we have a sensible approach to

The ACLU noted in its testimony that the Internet has become an
essential communications and research tool for everyone and that viewing
it as a tool for terrorists will lead to censorship and regulated
speech. Some in Congress have placed inordinate and inappropriate
significance on the role of the Internet in the radicalization process
and have proposed shutting down objectionable websites in violation of
the First Amendment.

There have also been proposals to investigate anyone who might have
visited questionable sites which would constitute a severe invasion of

"Fear cannot and should not drive our government policies," Romero
continued. "The Internet is the most open marketplace of ideas in the
history of the world and it must remain so. Any suggestion to limit this
marketplace would not only be a direct and immediate harm to the speech
and privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, it would also erode the
very principles that make our country the beacon of freedom to people
around the globe."

To read the ACLU's statement, go to:

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