Point by Dishonest Point
Another smearing of the ACLU by Mark Hyman . . . please pardon me while I stifle a yawn.
Yes, Hyman returns to bashing the ACLU, and again does so through systematic distortion and falsification of the facts. This time around, his beef is with the ACLU’s recent report to the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee on violations of political and human rights by the U.S. government.
This one is worth refuting point by misleading point. Here we go, with Hyman’s quotations, followed by a debunking.
“The ACLU claims it protects civil liberties in the U.S. But its 116-page report
to the UN includes a lot of America-bashing that doesn't fall in line with its
The report doesn’t criticize the U.S. , but some of the current policies of the U.S. government that are at odds with the Constitution, existing U.S. law, and international treaties.
Further, protecting individuals (even non Americans) from violations of their civil rights by government agencies does protect civil liberties of Americans by challenging precedents that could lead to even broader denials of civil rights. Plus, it’s the right thing to do.
“Among its criticisms:
- Terrorist detainees don't have the right to sue.”
First, the ACLU doesn’t defend the rights of “terrorist detainees,” but those accused of terrorism or related charges. Second, the right of non-Americans to pursue legal cases involving violations of their rights is already on the books, and has been for over 200 years, in the form of the Alien Tort Claims Act. The ACLU’s argument is simply that the U.S. government doesn’t have the right to ignore this existing law.
“The status of terrorist detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo and elsewhere
Simply as a matter of grammar, this phrase doesn’t constitute an “objection.” However, the ACLU has argued that the government needs to provide evidence in order to hold suspects (not exactly a radical concept). The military itself, for example, has identified more than 130 individuals currently held as worthy of release or return to their home countries. Only a handful have been. And again, we’re not talking about “terrorist detainees,” but any and all people held on suspicion of terrorism and related acts (many of whom have been deemed no threat to the U.S.).
“ Illegal aliens are not given taxpayer-paid lawyers.”
Again, the issue isn’t “illegal aliens,” but those accused of entering the country illegally and/or other crimes. The ACLU simply says the obvious: you can’t have a legitimate legal proceeding without the person being accused being represented by counsel.
“Mandatory detention of aliens awaiting court for criminal activities or threats
to national security.”
Wrong again. In fact, the ACLU report specifically says that it objects to “ indefinite and mandatory detention of individuals who pose no security or safety risks" [emphasis added]. Again, the argument is simply that the federal government must abide by the longstanding values of America, in this case, the idea that you can’t just lock somebody up indefinitely without a reason.
Expedited deportation of illegal aliens.
“Expedited” is a euphemism meaning “without any legal proceeding.” The ACLU (among others) points out that this endangers those seeking asylum in the U.S. Moreover, while immediate deportation was once confined to ports and border crossings, it has been expanding to include those who are living in the U.S. but who are suspected of entering the country illegally.
“Visa disapproval to foreigners advocating violence against America.”
Hyman is making up the “advocating violence” part. The ACLU argues that the federal government has disallowed visas to many prominent foreigners, particularly scholars, who were invited to the U.S.
They cite as a specific case Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar from France who, far from advocating violence against the U.S., has been an open proponent of Muslims living in the West embracing many aspects of Western culture and participating fully as citizens. While he has often been accused of saying different things to Muslim and non-Muslim audiences, I cannot find any accusation of him advocating violence against America or any Western country. In fact, his views are quite the opposite. While controversial, he’s no threat. In fact, it’s exactly people like Ramadan who can help non-Muslims better understand the nature of Islam and its interaction with Western culture. Yet he is denied entrance to the U.S. because his views are deemed controversial.
“Government surveillance of high risk groups of foreigners.”
The key phrase here is “high risk groups of foreigners.” What the ACLU has objected to is not surveillance of high risk groups, but the way the government has determined “high risk.” This includes racial profiling and surveillance without any legal warrant of people and groups only determined to be “high risk” because of their religion or ethnicity. The ACLU notes that such tactics have been used against Americans and non-Americans alike. What the ACLU suggests is that the government be required to show some justification for spying on people before actually doing it (or even after the fact). Again, not a radical idea, and one that’s at the heart of American values.
“These issues do not include Americans and many don't even occur in America.”
Yes, they do include Americans directly, and touch on issues that involve all Americans indirectly. Most *do* occur in America, and the ones that don’t (e.g., extradition of prisoners to countries for torture) are occurring on America’s watch.
“How does criticizing the actions of U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan
fall into the ACLU's claimed mission of protecting civil rights here at home? It
The ACLU doesn’t criticize the actions of U.S. servicemen and women in Afghanistan. Again, Hyman is making this up. The ACLU does criticize many of the Bush administration’s policies regarding foreign nationals taken into custody in Afghanistan. These policies are also questioned and objected to, in many cases, by the military itself. And because the administration is invoking its right to pursue these policies without any judicial oversight, it certainly does touch on the possibility of the government using similar arguments to undermine the civil rights of Americans (as we’ve seen in the domestic spying program).
“Some American civil rights the ACLU doesn't support include personal property
and Second Amendment rights. ACLU President Nadine Strossen defended the
organization's schizophrenic policies when she said, "I guess the fact that
something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn't necessarily mean that it is a
fundamental civil liberty."”
Nonsense. As we’ve seen before, Hyman is basing this on a quotation pulled entirely out of context and then creatively read to say the exact opposite of what Strossen meant. The point is that, as a matter of law, the Constitution establishes both civil rights and civil liberties. Civil rights are positive statements of what citizens can do (vote, own property, own guns) while civil liberties is a narrower category that specifically deals with rights protecting citizens from government intrusion. The ACLU focuses, as its name suggests, on this narrower set of rights. To say that this means it is against other civil rights is sophistry, and Hyman knows it. He is simply lying in order to vilify an enemy.
“So there you have it. The ACLU believes only it, and not the Constitution, is
the final arbiter of what constitutes a civil right.”
There you have it, Hyman ignores all context and meaning in order to make a laughable accusation.
“The ACLU is a very dangerous organization that is often the best friend ofAn utterly despicable statement. Let’s revise it to make it true, shall we? “Mark Hyman is a very dangerous public speaker who is often the best friend of the radical right and rhetorical bomb-throwers who do harm against our public sphere.”
terrorists and criminals who intend harm against America.”
And that’s The Counterpoint.
Hyman Index: 6.33