NEW YORK — Careful research conducted jointly by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Rutherford Institute and the Sunshine Press, as well as a new lawsuit filed last week, confirms that the American Civil Liberties Union does in fact still exist. Long thought to be an extinct relic of the 20th century, Pew spokesman Sherman Falls says the vestigial civil rights group is still “rattling around out there,” though Americans could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
“U.S. citizens are being blown up overseas without a trial, the Supreme Court has ruled that police can strip-search you and take a sample of your DNA before you ever see a judge, and strangers at the airport are examining your every nook and cranny. New York City cops can treat their gut feelings as probable cause and, oh yeah, right now the National Security Agency is most likely reading your phone and email records like they were a ‘Choose Your Own Pathetic Adventure,’” Falls said. “So the idea that there’s some Constitution-minded watchdog group out there – with a nine-figure budget no less – standing between the government and Americans’ freedoms may seem a little quaint, if not downright laughable.”
It was Falls’ last item – the NSA’s gargantuan program designed to screen and catalog communications without any evidence of a citizen’s wrongdoing– that may have finally awoken the sleeping dinosaur. Last week, the ACLU filed suit in federal court to “obtain a declaration that Mass Call Tracking is unlawful,” to have the process halted and to see the records of its data destroyed. The organization says the intelligence reaping violates the First and Fourth Amendments.
“It is the equivalent,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, “of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.”
While the Rutherford Institute and Sunshine Press applaud the idea that someone should remind Washington that it actually can’t do whatever it thinks is best to protect civilians, few people on the street were impressed.
“The ACLU? Oh, I love shopping with Antebellum Cotillion Ladies’ Umbrellas!” said Cindy Robertson of Biloxi, Miss. “I never order my parasols from anywhere else.”
Robertson added: “That civil liberties thing though – what have they done for me lately?”