The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Robin Burns, AAUP, (202) 737-5900 x113;
Larry Siems, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 111;
Rachel Myers, ACLU, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;

Obama Administration Will Take Steps to Facilitate the Free Exchange of Ideas Across Borders, State Department Says

Letter to Rights Organizations Recognizes Importance of Global Marketplace of Ideas


Obama administration will take new steps to address the "ideological
exclusion" of scholars and others from the United States on the basis of
their political views, according to a State Department letter made
public today by the American Association of University Professors
(AAUP), PEN American Center and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The State Department sent the letter to a coalition of human rights and
civil liberties groups after they expressed their appreciation for
Secretary Clinton's decision last year to end the ideological exclusion
from the U.S. of prominent scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan.

In its letter, the State Department acknowledges the importance of
"promoting a global marketplace of ideas." It specifically indicates
that, in deciding whether to grant visas, the State Department will give
"significant and sympathetic weight" to those seeking to enter the U.S.
to fulfill speaking engagements, attend conferences, accept teaching
positions, "or for similar expressive or educational activities."

The following can be attributed to Cary Nelson, President of AAUP:

"All Americans can be gratified that the State Department has
reaffirmed the administration's commitment to the global marketplace of
ideas and to the free exchange of opinion and analysis among American
scholars and visitors from abroad."

The following can be attributed to Larry Siems, Director of Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center:

"We welcome the State Department's stated commitment to holding the
door open to a wide range of voices and views from around the world, and
are very pleased to see that the steps Secretary Clinton took to end
the bans on Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib are part of a fresh approach
and larger policy. This letter brings good news for our international
colleagues, many of whom have been discouraged from visiting the United
States in recent years, and great news for us and for our right as
Americans to meet and share and debate ideas with them in person."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

"This is an encouraging and important letter, and we're hopeful that it
signals a renewed commitment on the part of the State Department to
facilitating and expanding the free exchange of ideas across
international borders. As the letter recognizes, our democracy can
thrive only if our political debate is informed by a diversity of ideas
and viewpoints. No democracy has ever made itself stronger by shutting
its ears to ideas that are provocative or politically unpopular. We
commend the State Department for this letter and look forward to seeing
these policies implemented."

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