and advocacy campaign aimed at elected officials, policymakers and judges as well as the press and public.
The ACLU issued three major reports: Upsetting Checks and Balances: Congressional Hostility Toward the Courts in Times of Crisis (October 2001), which chronicles the history of assaults on civil liberties through such court-stripping laws as were enacted after the Oklahoma City bombing; The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement (January 2002), a case study on FBI surveillance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Insatiable Appetite: The Government’s Demand for New and Unnecessary Powers After September 11 (April 2002), a detailed analysis of the Justice Department’s new powers and their likely impact.
The ACLU organized mass meetings and partnered with other groups and individuals to channel public support for civil liberties in the wake of the attacks. To commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the ACLU in January 2002 brought more than 1,000 civil-rights, civil-liberties, Arab, Muslim, African-American and Asian activists to a “town hall meeting” at the Washington Convention Center to recall King’s legacy and signal the dangers of domestic spying and racial profiling. The ACLU also spearheaded the issuance of a statement by more than 150 organizations, 300 law professors and 40 computer scien- tists opposing unnecessary infringements on freedom.
The ACLU’s Washington office rigorously monitored and strenuously opposed the loosening of restrictions on domestic
snooping and spying. This office kept a close watch on activities of the attorney general, whose power grab recalls the worst abuses of the J. Edgar Hoover era — and concluded that the administration had simply not made a case for such extraordinary expansions of power. “When the government fails, the Bush administration’s response is to give itself new powers rather than seriously investigate why the failures occurred,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. THE ADMINISTRATION PRO- POSED CREATING A VAST, NEW $37.5 BILLION BUREAUCRACY, TO BE CALLED THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, WITH JURISDICTION OVER 180,000 EMPLOYEES DRAWN FROM 22 FEDERAL AGENCIES. Public concerns about unwar- ranted and unchecked spying, and evidence of the ACLU’s ability to reach out and galvanize large segments of the American public, are reflected in statistics kept by the organization: Tracking the largest growth spurt in its 82-year history, the ACLU reported that almost 75,000 individuals became “card-carrying members” for the first time in 2001— many of them after Sept. 11. In just the first four months following the attacks, Murphy’s staff of 30 issued 54 press releases, responded to more than 4,200 inquiries from reporters, and generated more than 150,000 letters to Congress and the administration from supporters nationwide.
ACLU leaders took their concerns about executive branch excesses to Congress. ACLU leaders testified before congressional committees seven times, joining with other rights groups, to lobby for the inclusion of safeguards in the USA PATRIOT Act. As ACLU President Nadine Strossen warned