Q: Why Has the ACLU Been Silent About TSA Abuses? A: Because You Haven't Been Listening


In May, Matt Welch noted a storm of criticism from the right toward the ACLU for not defending some kids who were sent home from school for wearing shirts depicting the American flag to a Cinco de Mayo celebration. The problem was that the ACLU had intervened on the kids' behalf. The conservative critics just didn't bother to check. I'm working on a column that'll look a bit more at the right's oft-mistaken "Where's the ACLU?" syndrome, but I thought I'd share a pretty glaring recent example I found while researching it.

Here's Rush Limbaugh, while interviewing John "Don't Touch My Junk" Tyner about the TSA pat-downs on November 15th:

Oh, yeah, and where's the ACLU on this?  I mean unless there's a Muslim being patted down, they don't seem to care about the Fourth Amendment or anything else.

Plug "TSA" and various incarnations of "where's the ACLU" into Google, and you'll get a long list of similar complaints from blogs, comment threads, and discussion groups. A flury of conservatives on Twitter made the same compaint. Many linked to this November 16 post by William Teach, which appeared on the self-explanatory blog, Stop the ACLU and was cross-posted on the popular conservative site Right Wing News. It's titled, "Finally, The ACLU Is Concerned About TSA Groping….Oh, Wait, They're Not".

Here's an excerpt:

Leave it to the ACLU to ignore an issue that has Americans, both Left and Right, up in arms. Have you ever noticed that the ACLU tends to ignore the real issues 90% of the time? And the other 10% of the time, they usually do the right thing for the wrong reason(s)…

If you search the ACLU website, there is zip. Nada. Zilch. Nor any complaints from the national ACLU in the news about people getting groped and abused.

So I actually did search the ACLU website. My search kicked back 303 hits. I guess it wouldn't be fair to hold Teach accountable for items posted to the ACLU after he wrote the post above. So here's a partial list of the TSA-related items that appeared on the ACLU's website before November 16, all of which Teach should have found:

  • Here's a backgrounder on the imaging machines the ACLU put together in January 2010, just a month after TSA began talking about implementing them at more airports in response to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's failed underwear bomb.
  • On March 5 of this year, the same day TSA announced the scanners would be used in 11 more airports, the ACLU issued a press release criticizing the decision.
  • Here's a press release the organization put out in 2007 that both expresses alarm about the privacy implications of the scanners and raises questions about their efficacy.
  • From a June 2008 post on the ACLU's website: "We don't think flyers should be subjected to such intrusive displays of their naked bodies. Intimate details of the human body, like the size of breasts and genitals, as well as mastectomies, colostomy appliances, and catheter tubes will be in plain view of TSA personnel, and anyone else in the security area who'd like to take a gander at any particular passenger."
  • In August of this year, the ACLU posted a 3.6 MB file containing the results of its FOIA request for documents related to the TSA's new enhanced pat-down procedures.
  • Here's an April 2009 blog post warning of what's coming, headlined, "Show Us Your Body, or We'll Feel You Up."
  • Here's an August 2010 post noting the story about U.S. Marshalls storing nude images taken with similar scanners, cautioning us to be skeptical of government assurances that TSA images will be deleted.
  • Here's another August 2010 post from the Massachusetts ACLU (but posted to the national ACLU's blog) about an experience with one of the early adopted scanners at Logan International Airport.
  • Here's a May 17, 2010 post about the scanners and safety concerns titled, "Getting Naked with Strangers May Be More Dangerous Than Suspected".
  • In February of this year, the organization drew attention to the case of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, whose nude image was printed out by airline personnel, despite assurances by the British government that images couldn't be retained. In May, they noted the story about the Miami TSA workers who assaulted a colleague after the colleague saw the man's image in one of the scanner and mocked him for the size of his penis.

These weren't difficult to find. And there are plenty more. In fact, in the same post in which Teach writes, "If you search the ACLU website, there is zip. Nada. Zilch. Nor any complaints from the national ACLU in the news about people getting groped and abused," he actually links to a November 3rd entry published on the ACLU's website about the new scanners and pat-down procedures. Not only that, but that particular entry:

  • Links back to four prior ACLU website items critical of the new TSA procedures.
  • Links to an October 29 article in USA Today in which national ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese tells the paper, ""Are we giving people two intolerable actions at airports? They can be virtually strip-searched or endure a really aggressive grope?"
  • Asks anyone who feels they've been abused by TSA to fill out a form. The ACLU is collecting the complaints for possible future litigation.

That form, incidentally, went up the day the new procedures went into effect, and so far the organization has collected more than 1,000 complaints.

By all indications, not only has the ACLU not been silent on this issue, they've been way out in front of just about everyone else. Yet in a testament to blind partisanship's uncanny ability to destroy brain cells, Teach then wrote another blog post, this time on November 25th, in which he held firm to his earlier criticism.

Speaking of the ACLU, did you know they have received more than 900 complaints so far over the enhanced gropings, er, pat downs?

The story lists several stories of gropings, and you can read more stories here. Yet, for all that, the ACLU is mostly silent. Many people (I can guess which side of the political aisle they sit on) criticized me in my previous two posts about the ACLU being absent (interestingly, they mostly cited the exact same ACLU article I provided in the first story), yet, my point still stands: the ACLU is mentioning the issue of enhanced pat downs (without even the courtesy of dinner and a movie), but doing nothing about it. Usually, one can count on the threat of a lawsuit, or even an actual lawsuit, from the ACLU. Or, they might be DEMANDING records and government information.

Remember the so-called "domestic wiretapping" issue, which was anything but, and, of course, not actually intrusive? They went ballistic. Here? It's all "just send us your groping stories." Maybe the ACLU plans to submit them to Penthouse letters or something.

As noted above, the ACLU has made records requests. Moreover, in the time between Teach's initial post on November 16 and his follow-up on November 25, the ACLU also posted an online petition where users could send complaints to DHS Sec. Janet Napolitano, published a "Know Your Rights" guide for travelers, and sifted through the hundreds of complaints to publish a guide explaining what travelers can expect to encounter because of the new procedures.

I'd imagine they haven't yet filed suit because the new procedures are, well, new. Generally speaking, you need to find someone whose civil rights were violated before you can file a civil rights lawsuit. And this, as the ACLU notes, is one purpose of collecting the stories.

I realize that at this point this post is probably overkill, but moronic as people like Teach or Mark Ames can be, they do have some influence, and their particularly egregious lies are worth debunking in full. (And Limbaugh of course has a massive following.) This crap gets picked up on Twitter feeds, reposted in online newspaper forums, cut-and-pasted into blog comments, and reiterated at pubs and dinner tables. It cheapens and dumbs down the public debate, and on a pretty damned important issue.

NEXT: Ron Paul: "it's at least 50-50 that I'll run"

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  1. I think the ACLU is realizing–again!–that the Democrats suck huge ass on civil liberties issues, too. In fact, this time around, they’re worse, because they’re doing all of the bad stuff the GOP did with new bad stuff thrown in for good measure.

    Maybe they’ll learn not to play politics one of these days.

    1. I’m pretty sure the point of this piece is that the ACLU never “plays politics” to the extent that its (mostly right-leaning) critics like to claim.

      As the title implies, the people playing politics are the ones selectively investigating the ACLU’s record.

      1. I like em. But “never” is a pretty strong word. 2nd ammendment?

        1. Yeah, fair enough.


          Try type ACLU sues for gun rights in google and see what ya get.

          1. I would agree that they are weak on 2nd amendment issues. But they are not as absent as some would make you believe.

          2. Sure, in Louisiana. Let me know when the NY branch does the same thing.

        3. I’m fine with the sentiment, it’s just a little ambiguous or weaselly: “never ___ to the extent that ___.” And the ACLU is nothing like the Team Blue front organization they’re portrayed as. There’s an obvious bias that is fair to point out, but for all the left circle-jerking over Obama, the ACLU have been fairly principled civil libertarians.

      2. I’m a former member of the ACLU, and I still get ACLU newsletters. My impression is that they tend to give more of the benefit of the doubt to the Democrats than they do the GOP. That’s not to say that they’ll do it to the exclusion of all else, which is why they started turning on Clinton back in the late 90s and are clearly doing the same with this administration today.

        1. Yeah, I don’t doubt that your average ACLU-er is a Democrat, and a critical mass among involved individuals will necessarily manifest itself in the group decisions.

          That’s quite different from the top-down, intentional skewing often alleged by people on the “right”, but the point is taken.

      3. Apparently someone or some media are not reporting that the ACLU is engaged in these activities. I have not seen ANY of this, and I spend a couple of hours every day purusing internet blogs and news outlets.

        And don’t try to give me any crap about how the “right wing” is smothering this coverage. That dog won’t hunt.

  2. Cheapening and Dumbing Down is what I do, homie. Its what my audience wants.

  3. Just so I have this correct, you have concluded from this post that the ACLU is playing politics?

    1. Who, me? No. I think they’ve toned down their politics quite a bit by accepting the evidence that this administration and Congress are horrible on civil liberties.

      1. Why do you say that?

  4. I’ve been finding that the only people better than lefties at the whole fact free outrageously outraged schtick are the hard core righties. Most times it’s just a wash. Of incoherent noise.

  5. I wonder what search terms Teach put in at the ACLU website (if he even did at all)? Argument by search engine is a funny technique (“well my search came up with nothing, so it must not exist”). He probably searched for “ACLU does something about nudie scanners” and required all words to match so as to guarantee no hits.

    1. Is this a form of arguing from personal incredulity? If I can’t imagine it, it can’t be possible. If I can’t Google it, it cannot be found.

  6. Everybody knows the ACLU hates America, Radley.

  7. Let’s take a look at their congressional scorecard. What a libertarian organization!

    1. Where did I argue that the ACLU is libertarian? My point here isn’t that they’re beyond criticism, it’s that any such criticism should be grounded in reality.

      1. I agree completely. The way some of the right-wing pundits talk, you’d think the ACLU had never done anything for civil liberties. I think almost all of their ire comes from the ACLU’s position on religion.

        The ACLU does tend to forget that the state is the big threat and that making exceptions to core liberties (e.g., hate crimes and speech) is dangerous, dangerous ground.

        1. The religion thing, yes. I lost a bet on the healthcare bill and I’m now a member. Their spottiness on political speech issues is my biggest gripe. But their stoking of the religious culture wars is playing for team blue in an effort to divide America. Tweaking long held traditional values may be right, but it shouldn’t be your core activity.

          1. Speaking of a civil liberty the ACLU hasnt done anything about…where are their lawsuits on the healthcare bill?

            1. You kidding? We love it, though the lack of an abortion coverage requirement is troubling.

              New Health Care Legislation Includes Troubling Setbacks For Reproductive Rights

            2. What civil right does the ACA violate?

              I don’t know of an amendment to the constitution which says the government cannot give a deduction to taxation for some arbitrary action the taxed entity has done.

          2. They seem to be doing better on political speech. They supported the winning side in Citizens United, despite catching a lot of criticism from their base for doing so.

            1. That’s true. Though they are guilty–as are most scholars and judges–of putting too much emphasis on a hierarchy of speech rights (i.e., the idea that some speech is extra special, with political speech being at the top).

      2. Where did I argue that the ACLU is libertarian?

        You didnt, but I dont think it is possible to support civil liberties and not be libertarian.

        But, that may be due to my seeing economic issues as civil liberties.

      3. Radley,

        I generally agree with you 95% but I think the ACLU deserves quite a bit of criticism. The ACLU isn’t known for blogging and commenting on the issues of the day. There are already other blogs and the main stream media for blabbing. The ACLU is known for taking things court and prevailing.

        In the list you provide they it wasn’t until August 2010 that they actually too minimal action and filed a FOIA request. Now they are finally seeking information about abuses from the flying public.

        Doing something and talking about something are entirely different things.

  8. So what has the ACLU done about the TSA besides reveal that they’ve received “thousands of complaints about the procedures”?

    I looked through the links and I don’t see them filing any lawsuits or petitions to the court for futher information. All I see is a link on how to email Napolitano to give her a piece of my mind.

    For instance, there is a story where “The ACLU has asked FBI field offices in 29 states and Washington, D.C. to turn over records related to the agency’s collection and use of race and ethnicity data in local communities”. Whilst this may be a good thing and I cheer them for forcing transparency, this is an example of them actually DOING something.

    I see them doing a big fat NOTHING when it comes to the TSA.

    1. I looked through the links and I don’t see them filing any lawsuits or petitions to the court for futher information.

      Then you haven’t carefully looked through the links. They’ve filed numerous lawsuits on behalf of people harassed by TSA, including the Ron Paul staffer detained for having too much cash on him. I would imagine a big reason they haven’t yet filed suit on these latest procedures is that they’re barely a month old. Which again, is the reason why they’re collecting stories. It takes time to put together a lawsuit.

      But as noted in the post (really, did you even read my post?) they have filed open records requests on the latest procedure. And they’ve published the results.

      1. For some, not saying Tman, it’s necessary to ignore what they do in order to keep the approprate team bullseye on the target. Politics loves to have a whipping boy. The ACLU is a rightwing target so naturally they do not want to admit anything that would make the ACLU less of a target or anything that would legitimize the organization.

      2. I did see the FOIA request after further review of your links.

        My bad, I should have read it more carefully.

        But you should put up link about the Beirfeldt case, since the ACLU already dropped the case.…..-standard/

        1. To clarify – they dropped the case because they won, not because they were afraid of the TSA or in bed with the enemy.

        2. And they dropped it because the TSA changed its policy. In response to the ACLU’s lawsuit.

          1. For the record I agree that the ACLU has NOT been silent about the abuses, and the claims to the contrary are unfounded.

            I was wrong to say that they haven’t done anything, but despite the win with the Beirfeldt case the TSA hasn’t appeared to change policies in any way that indicates the ACLU has been effective in curtailing civil liberty violations.

            That being said, hopefully as Radney points out they are gathering enough evidence to actually force the TSA to seriously rethink their policies.

  9. Without a doubt, the ACLU has been very weak on 2nd, 3rd and 10th amendment cases.

    1. And Im not going to mention the ACLU’s amicus brief for Kelo, since it didnt fucking exist.

      1. Why would the ACLU care about property rights? Even if there is an “identity politics” angle they would have to come out in favor of property rights so that’s a No-Go.

        1. Property rights are a fundamental civil liberty. Without it, the others fall apart. If their are no property rights, then your property can be taken if, for example, you speak in a way that the government doesnt like. Its why asset forfeiture is such a big deal.

          The different ACLU divisions have actually been pretty good on ED, the national ACLU didnt take a position on Kelo, however.

          1. I disagree. It is a fundamental liberty, but I would draw a distinction between a fundamental liberty and a civil liberty. Civil liberties and civil rights are those that only make sense in the context of a civil society. E.g., the right to vote or have equal access to public schools.

            Natural rights — speech, liberty, property — would exist even if the government didn’t. Of course “to secure these right, governments are instituted among men,” but the assumption is that the rights are natural and pre-exist civil society.

        2. So much for no-go


          1. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida

            As I mentioned above, the state ACLUs have been pretty good on ED. Its the national ACLU that has been a disgrace.

            1. I’m was commenting to SIV’s no-go on property rights.

              1. Which is true for the national ACLU. Local chapters “go rogue” sometimes.

                1. They’re ‘rogue’ but the national organization still pays for these cases and even lets them post these things on the national site?

                  Can I post anti-property rights stuff on your website, then?

    2. 3rd Amendment? No need, they’ve outsourced to these guys

      1. My point exactly. Do we even know the ACLU’s position on the 3rd?

        They have never filed a single lawsuit, that Im aware of, on a 3rd amendment issue.

        1. because one can count third amendment caseson one hand?

          (/not sure if serious)

      2. Good. I want those soldiers out of my fucking house already.

      3. I heard a very convincing argument that drug testing (by the Feds) is a violation of the 3rd Amendment, as the test is functionally no different than parking a narc in your living room.

        … Hobbit

  10. The ACLU has a long history of defending civil liberties of people from all parts of the political map. If you think they’re in the tank for liberals, maybe it’s just the case that liberals are better on civil liberties.

    1. Shut the fuck up, sockpuppet. I’m in no mood for you today.

      1. How charming. Off your meds again?

        1. Wow, your blog is even more boring than I would have expected. Why would you link to it? You’re not actually proud of it, are you? No one is that delusional.

          1. That his way of saying he really likes you.



      2. You have no idea what Tony has put me through.

        Kill me…. Please…. Kill me now…

    2. Shut your fucking face uncle fucka
      You’re a cock sucking ass licking uncle fucka
      Your an uncle fucker yes its true Nobody fucks uncles quite like you.

    3. liberals are better on civil liberties

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Thanks for the early Friday Funny…

    4. ahhh, I was wondering when the token village idiot, Tony, would wiegh in.

  11. maybe it’s just the case that liberals are better on civil liberties.

    Maybe Santa will bring me that Death Ray I wrote him about.

    1. I’d settle for a rail gun…..010/592921

    2. Death rays are the #1 Christmas toy this year. Well unless they are seized at the border by ICE on behalf of the FDA

    3. Dear P Brooks,
      Santa can’t bring you the SUPER ATOMIC COSMIC DEATH RAY SPACE GUN because Libertarian boys only deserve coal.

      P.S. Can you tell Tony I found him the perfect male model boyfriend.

  12. This is one of the most fascinating issues I’ve seen in a long time, because it’s disrupting the normal, easy Red Team/Blue Team crap so much.

    When I initially started railing about this online, my conservative friends seemed more supportive of the new TSA procedures, while my liberal friends were against it. But then somehow, I guess because it’s Napolitano, and she’s Obama’s guy, the sides have switched, but only partially. I like that people have to actually think about this instead of just going along with “their team”.

    But yes, idiots suck.

  13. Here’s Rush Limbaugh, while interviewing John “Don’t Touch My Junk” Tyner about the TSA pat-downs on November 15th:

    Oh, yeah, and where’s the ACLU on this? I mean unless there’s a Muslim being patted down, they don’t seem to care about the Fourth Amendment or anything else.

    Ha HA!!

    I guess Rush’s 99.8% being right ratio needs adjusting.

    Also if you are reading this Moynihan this is how you kick the conservative talking heads in the nuts. Take notes.

  14. Q: Why Has the ACLU Been Silent About TSA Abuses? A: Because You Haven’t Been Listening […]

    … Hard Enough. They Have Been Saying Something… In Morse Code… With A Tiny Hammer… In Space. So There!

    1. It’s amazing to what extent partisan goggles can affect one’s ability to read and comprehend the information that’s placed before them.

  15. When is the ACLU going to pay attention to my needs???

    1. What needs would that be? You (Heller) does allow for resonable regulation.

      1. What regulation?

        1. Pretty much everything short of a absolute ban.

          1. I have no idea what you are talking about. Try conventional, coherent English.

            1. Heller as in the court case.

  16. Of course the ACLU has been on this issue. They are a respectable organization that means what it says and isn’t an arm of the Democratic Party. Now… where the hell is the NRA when notable black entertainers and athletes are imprisoned under 2nd Amendment-restricting gun possession laws? Ask that and prepare for the crickets.

    1. They don’t defend people that carry unlicensed, hidden weapons into night clubs.

  17. I guess it wouldn’t be fair to hold Teach accountable for items posted to the ACLU after he wrote the post above.

    Really? Do you think?

    “Where’s the ACLU?

    Here they are!

    Handy Tips for Transgender Travelers

    1. DearACLU,
      Please stop worrying about transgendered people’s rights. They make SIV uncomfortable.

      I hope that helps, Mr cockfighter!

      1. Transgendered people have different rights than the rest of us? Well if you and the ACLU say so…

        1. From your link:

          And remember, if feel you were singled out or treated differently because you are transgender, be sure to let us know with this form, and file a complaint with the TSA.

          I added the emphasis for those with partisan blinders on. 🙂

          1. Thanks for making my case. The ACLU concern about the TSA is narrowly focused on issues of identity politics and not civil liberties. What if the “transgendered person” feels their rights were violated as a free individual? Don’t cry to the ACLU.

            1. You linked to an ACLU blog entry. There is a link, however, found on the front page of the ACLU website to the ACLU’s up to date work on the TSA procedures. But you say the blog entry trumps the link on their front page and that I proved your point. Please explain to me what the hell you are talking about.

              1. it’s obvious: SIV is talking about adlkjhwr;h;n ggg;o cockfighting slfkhsh;nrsssk;witngeltgn bigot r;kgneoifngrgrjng rtihihfgohera blarh blarh blarh.

                it’s really that simple

                1. Yup. I think you nailed it.

              2. Both links were published on 11/24/2010.AFTER the flurry of “Where’s the ACLU”? criticism.

                Look at any damn issue on the ACLU site.
                They should change their name to the American Identity Politics Union

                1. Again, you’re proving that you’re either extremely stupid, or have the typing capability of a meletary loier.

                  The initials of what you’re proposing would be AIPU. Not even remotely close to “ACLU”.

                  I suggest you learn your alphabet before you embarrass yourself any further

                2. Hier is a customized Google search of for the terms “tsa” and “scanner” listing results published only from 1/01/2010 – 11/14/2010.

            2. So, what, I gotta wear a dress and pantyhose to get some fuckin respect from the TSA? Well, then again, it does give me an excuse to get a cute little Vietnamese woman to give me a pedicure and foot massage. Hmmm.

              1. So, what, I gotta wear a dress and pantyhose to get some fuckin respect […]

                it’s the way of the world, son.

  18. I think the problem is that the MSM tends to highlight ACLU activities when the cause is more liberal (or perhaps less authoritarian). This then leads to the perception that the ACLU is not active in the debate.

    1. Yeah, I think this is correct. The MSM wants to give the impression that everyone is ok with these TSA procedures. I recently saw another report on CNN about the procedures. They interviewed one older woman, who predictably responded that as long as it keeps her safe everything is ok. That was the only person they asked or rather the only person they showed in the report. If the issue was one of the lefty’s favorite causes and the ACLU were active on the lefts account it would be headline news and not some below the line story no one ever hear’s about.

  19. The way some of the right-wing pundits talk, you’d think the ACLU had never done anything for civil liberties.

    The only thing worse than rounding people up and putting them in internment camps is rounding up the wrong people.

    1. Damned Asian hordes.

      1. The current commonly-used term is “Fucking Mongolians”

  20. I think the problem is that the MSM ACLU tends to highlight ACLU activities when the cause is more liberal

    I have no doubt the ACLU has people who actually give a rat’s ass about civil liberties and do some important work in that area but they have to downplay that from their partisan, bootlicking,statist supporters. Look at their main page where they “highlight” their cesspool of leftist identity politics issues.

    1. And this ad hominem attack would be relevant to Radley’s article how, exactly?

      1. It answers the question: “Where’s the ACLU”?. Playing idebnity politics and KULTUR WAR for the most part.

        1. is today “opposite day” for interpretations?

  21. It’s been a while since I had any involvement with the ACLU, but I do recall that one of the issues with trying to figure out the ACLU’s “mission” was the different positions taken by state/local chapters, which is where a lot of the decision-making happens. For instance, attorneys and others sit on intake committees to decide whether or not to take on a case or issue. The decision in, say, Orlando is likely to differ from a decision made in San Francisco.

  22. Put ACLU in google news and the TSA article that comes up first is Balko’s.
    Followed immediately by:

    NASHVILLE, TENN.: ACLU warns schools about celebrations

    You have to go to the second page past:

    ACLU Warns Schools to Say “Holiday” vs. “Christmas”

    before you get to another one. The ACLU is more concerned with fighting THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!!1 than,
    you know, civil liberties

    1. One issue on religion that the ACLU sometimes loses sight of is the free exercise part. It’s one thing to say no prayer/creationism/etc. in schools and another to fight a kid reading from the Bible in a valedictory address. To my mind, the latter is clearly not an “establishment of religion” and is purely a free exercise (and free speech) issue.

        1. I searched for the word commencement on that page and couldnt find it.

          Do they support valedictorians praying/quoting the bible during their speeches or not?

        2. I said sometimes! I’ve read cases where the ACLU took up the free exercise baton and would never suggest that they don’t care about the issue. But I do think their anti-establishment concerns generally trump those about free exercise, in those instances where the issues collide.

          To be fair, it’s possible to frame any establishment case as impinging upon free exercise rights, but I’m not talking about that.

          1. In any event, I’m not here to praise or bury the ACLU. Better to have an imperfect organization fighting government abuse than nothing at all. But I don’t spend much time paying attention to the ACLU unless they prevail on something I care about. Like the CDA case, for instance.

            1. you’re just bitter that they didn’t take up your “Mattress Tag” case.

              1. Yes, dammit, yes.

              2. “Mattress Tag”

                That’s what you and highnumber call it?


      1. If by “lose sight of” you mean “actively oppose” using the power of the state…

      2. “”It’s one thing to say no prayer/creationism/etc. in schools and another to fight a kid reading from the Bible in a valedictory address.””


        If schools didn’t get so cozy with government for cash, it wouldn’t be an issue at all.

  23. Sure, the ACLU has generally been pretty weak on defending Second Amendment rights. Yes, you can legitimately criticise them for being inconsistent.

    The flip side of that is that there are already a number of organizations dedicated to Second Amendment advocacy, so presumably the ACLU prioritizes defense of other rights – ones which nobody else will defend. They don’t have unlimited resources.

  24. Not that the second amendment has anything to do with this post, but here’s the ACLU’s position on it:

    Given the reference to “a well regulated Militia” and “the security of a free State,” the ACLU has long taken the position that the Second Amendment protects a collective right rather than an individual right. For seven decades, the Supreme Court’s 1939 decision in United States v. Miller was widely understood to have endorsed that view.

    The Supreme Court has now ruled otherwise. In striking down Washington D.C.’s handgun ban by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court’s 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, whether or not associated with a state militia.

    The ACLU disagrees with the Supreme Court’s conclusion about the nature of the right protected by the Second Amendment. We do not, however, take a position on gun control itself. In our view, neither the possession of guns nor the regulation of guns raises a civil liberties issue.…..-amendment

    1. And they are entirely fucking wrong.

      In our view, neither the possession of guns nor the regulation of guns raises a civil liberties issue.

      That is absolute bullshit.

      1. The 2nd Amendment refers to a property right. The ACLU doesn’t do property rights.

        1. Just like the U.S. Supreme Court!

          1. Say, that’s right! Coincidence?

    2. Dude, the ACLU does some really important work, but they are fucking awful on gun rights. If they got OK on the 2nd Amendment, they could be the most valuable asset for civil liberties for the country we have today. They’re already close to that, but why the hell do they think that the 2nd isn’t valid?

      1. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Rather than rail against what we see as their shortcomings, better to accept them as an ally and celebrate the good that they do and have done. Would be nice to have one-stop shopping, but sometimes you just gotta take things as they are.

        1. I agree; I certainly appreciate what the ACLU does and am glad they’re doing it. I just don’t get the anti-gun thing with them. It’s so fucking stupid.

          1. Gun fetishes have nothing to do with civil liberties, except in America where it’s rampant and those with the gun fetish want to have it protected.

            1. that’s just plain ol dumb. Rampant fetishes need protection.

            2. Just the whole Amendment to the constitution.

              1. And you can go out and buy guns. So what’s the civil rights issue?

          2. Actually, if you read the statement I posted, they are not anti-gun/pro-gun control. They are merely neutral on the subject and don’t get involved in gun matters either way.

      2. Because they are mostly populated by big-city dwellers who can only imagine a weapon held by a citizen being used in an unlawful manner. In this case their view of policy drives their view of the law. They think it is a bad thing for regular folks to be armed, so therefore the constitution does not guarantee a right to be armed.

        Actually, a large thread of ACLU thought seems to rest on the notion that the constitution grants rights, rather than the constitution authorizing a limited set of powers for the government.

        This wrong-headed opinion about the nature of the constitution is apparently quite pervasive; even in legal scholar circles, even our President and several members of the highest court seem to reject the notion of natural rights and enumerated powers.

      3. Guns are icky.

  25. presumably the ACLU prioritizes defense of other rights – ones which nobody else will defend.

    Like the right to be free from people cashing state paychecks uttering the word “Christmas”, if SIV is correct.

    1. The ACLU’s courageous work burying complaints about the TSA deep in their website is overshadowed by high priority issues like THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!!1

  26. In our view, neither the possession of guns nor the regulation of guns raises a civil liberties issue.

    See, boys and girls, that’s how you take a firmly gun-control stance behind a fog neutrality.

    They could have said something like “The Constitution identifies the possession of guns as a civil liberty guaranteed to all Americans. However, as a matter of policy the ACLU does actively engage in gun control issues, preferring to direct its resources elsewhere.”

    But it knows its donor base would have a cow, so they wink-and-nod that they are “enlightened” on gun control.

    1. The constitution also states that the possession of guns should be well-regulated.

      As it is, you can go out and purchase guns. I don’t see the civil rights issue you’re talking about.

      1. Nope, it’s the militia that should be well regulated, not the possession of guns.

        “Well regulated” did not mean “beset with restrictions” but something like “well trained and disciplined.” The idea seems to be that citizens who already own arms and know how to use them can be immediately available when a need arises for armed defense against enemies foreign or domestic.

        1. But…but…but…I thought the Government was supposed to defend me!

      2. Crissa, go back and read the Amendment. And this time try to understand what it is saying. I thought the people here were educated and capable of reading comprehension. …. well, for the most part, anyway.

  27. I have lost all respect for my left-wing media colleagues, and am thoroughly disgusted by the stalwart human-rights defenders twisting their minds into Mobius-pretzel shapes to explain why there’s nothing oxymoronic about the ostensibly free citizens of an ostensibly free country forced to submit to nude photography and genital fondling to travel in-country if they wish to fly.

    If I were rich and had money to burn, I’d bribe the likes of Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck to speak out in favor of expanding food-stamp benefits, solely for the dour pleasure of watching left-wing Defenders Of The Poor run around snatching food out of hungry children’s mouths. “I used to think it was very important to feed you, but that was before doing so required me to agree with a right-winger,” they’d say. “Screw that.”

    The thudding noise heard throughout America the night of Obama’s inauguration was the sound of millions of left-wing human rights defenders falling to their knees in their race to see who could be the first to fellate the new administration. I hope they all get cold sores.

    But honestly forces me to admit the thudding will be just as loud when a Republican takes back the White House. The right-wingers (except Ron Paul) who hate the TSA today will once again realize TSA is the vital front line in our national security.


    1. The thudding noise heard throughout America the night of Obama’s inauguration was the sound of millions of left-wing human rights defenders falling to their knees in their race to see who could be the first to fellate the new administration. I hope they all get cold sores.

      Thanks again for your vote Jennifer, but go easy with the teeth.

  28. Checking out th ACLU house blog I can’t see any recent TSA stuff but they are very concerned that opposing government funding of sacrilegious art is CENSORSHIP

    1. Shit I forgot the partisan, theocratic TEAM RED scare quotes:


    2. the whole “if you don’t pay for the art we like with tax money you are censoring it” is such a pile of stupid as to be beneath contempt.

      Radley can kiss their ass all he wants. But for ever one good thing they do, there are about a hundred things that are either a complete waste of time or actively offensive. Fuck the ACLU. Let them die and replace them with an organization that actually gives a shit about civil rights more than they care about scoring points in the culture war.

      1. If you have the government pay for art, it needs to be agnostic towards the religious value of that art.

        If it is not, then the government is round-about paying for religion, which two hundred years of history has said that is unconstitutional.

        1. Sigh. Forget the seperation of Church and State BS. It doesn’t exist. The Constitution forbids the ESTABLISHMENT OF A RELIGION by government!!! As in the Church of England? Dummies.

  29. I think the problem is the media. It will trumpet the ACLU press releases when they back a “liberal” cause, but are silent when it comes to the ACLU backing “conservative” causes.

    1. The ACLU filters nearly all of it’s “civil liberties”concerns through an identity politics prism.

      1. “thanks” for your insider knowledge of ACLU proceedings.

        truly excellent insight you have provided.

        1. I mentioned this above, but a lot of the problem for the ACLU is that there are a bunch of little ACLUs running around within the organization. At least, that was my experience in the 90s. Probably still true.

          1. very similar to what “Condor” realized on day two!

            1. Does that make you or me Max von Sydow?

                1. Nah, you’re slightly more Scandinavian than I am, and it’s winter for you. And it’s Christmas!

                  I’ll be Cliff Robertson.

                    1. Selv tak!

        2. “you’re welcome”

    2. I’m putting my dollar on this as the reason for the “Where is the ACLU?” meme.

  30. I would also point out that there is not a single thing that I can find on the ACLU website about the various food bans going on in the country. If what you chose to eat or sell to people to eat is not a civil right what is?

    And there is not a single damn thing about the right to self defense or 2nd Amendment issues.

    1. And if you search IJ’s website, you won’t find a single item about the Fourth Amendment. Or wrongful convictions. What’s your point?

      I have no problem criticizing the ACLU for its support for affirmative action or public education. But I’m hesitant to call out an organization that otherwise does good by what they don’t do.

      But that’s beside the point of my specific criticism of the ACLU’s conservative critics. Which is that the charge that they only apply their principles to help out non-white, non-Christian, non-Republican people is demonstrably, provably false.

      I’ll have more in next week’s column.

      1. “And if you search IJ’s website, you won’t find a single item about the Fourth Amendment. Or wrongful convictions. What’s your point?”

        They don’t claim to be general civil rights organizations like the ACLU does. They have a specific focus.

        Radley if you want to admit that the ACLU is a leftist organization that occasionally supports civil rights, you will get no argument from me. But stop insulting everyone’s intelligence by claiming they have anything approaching a politically neutral and principled view of civil liberties. They don’t. Things like property rights, guns and food don’t get support from the ACLU becuase the ACLU is only interested in civil rights as determined by a leftist agenda.

        1. I’m not sure how I would go about proving your position… But could you give it a try?

          Because from where I’m sitting, I don’t see any major fights on property and food for them to fight. The fight on food is lost as long as consumption of things like marijuana is illegal in the US. And as much as I get annoyed that they focus where they think they can apply the law, I understand the reasoning: They only have so many resources to apply.

          So what big law property case(s) have they not fought where they should have?

      2. Which is that the charge that they only apply their principles to help out non-white, non-Christian, non-Republican people is demonstrably, provably false.

        I don’t accuse the ACLU of doing that but it is how they choose to frame their own work.

        1. They do? Where?

          1. Front page of their website. Nearly every issue is framed in identity politics.

      3. “But I’m hesitant to call out an organization that otherwise does good by what they don’t do.”

        But what about the bad that they do? How can an organization claim to be a civil rights organization and support affirmative action and the denial of the right to choose your school?

        Why do you cut them so much slack Radley? Do you cut right wing organizations that do appalling things like support the drug war the same slack? If not why not?

        It really is okay to hate liberal organizations Radley.

        1. I do and have criticized the ACLU when I disagree with them. Just as I’m happy to point out the good conservative organizations do when merited.

          The purpose of this post was to debunk a criticism of the ACLU that not only isn’t merited, but is based on provably false assertions that could have easily been verified.

          I’ve been more than happy to hate on liberal groups when they engage in like posturing. Here’s an example:


          That you chose to see this as me being unwilling to criticize liberals says more about your own filters than it does about mine.

      4. Radley, it’s sad to watch someone try to defend his article after the fact. Try to make the next one stand on it’s own merits. OK?

  31. “If they got OK on the 2nd Amendment, they could be the most valuable asset for civil liberties for the country we have today.”

    Exactly. They are stuck in 1968. They spend their time worrying about shit like school prayer and mythical klansman that was important forty years ago. And they refuse to recognize the civil rights issues that are important and most at threat today which are property and gun rights.

    1. They do do property rights/eminent domain cases.…..e-religiou…..mes-county

      (I have more links, but the comment system limits two per comment.)

      1. thanks. The spam filter is awful. So they do care about eminent domain.

  32. If there were truth in advertising the ACLU could sum it up with: Piss Jesus, yes. Baby Jesus, no.

    1. But Piss Muhammad is a NO No No!!!

      1. Unless Piss Muhammed feels he gets singled out by the TSA when he’s flying while wearing a dress.

        1. Unless Piss Muhammed feels he gets singled out by the TSA when he’s flying while wearing a dress.

          *runs off quickly to play some more “mattress tag”*

        2. He only pissed himself because the TSA handled his urostomy bagbag

      2. But Piss Muhammad is a NO No No!!!

        Wrong again.…..31242.html

        1. See the link below about how awful the ACLU has been on the issue of radical Islam and free speech Radley.

          they support a single law suit in New Jersey, which is the result of a local chapter taking up the issue. But the national chapter was largely silent about the Muhammad cartoons and refused to support the coalition opposing the UN defamation of religion resolution.

    2. That’s not true either. Here’s a list that somebody (not me) made with all the times they supported the rights of Christians to be, well, Christian:

      It’s a very long list.

      1. I am so grateful to the ACLU for allowing me to be a Christian.

  33. And don’t forget the ACLU has been thoroughly useless on the issue of free speech criticizing Islam.

    When the U.S. State Department condemned publication of the notorious Muhammad cartoons in 2005, and newspapers in the U.S. declined to publish them, the ACLU was virtually silent. In fact, talking points issued by the press office ? recommended ducking questions about the cartoons. ? Three years later, in 2008, despite a new focus on international human rights, the ACLU declined to join a free speech coalition opposing a UN defamation of religion resolution that targeted criticism of Islam.

    Sorry Radley, but I don’t find your defense of them particularly compelling.

    1. Also not true. Here’s an example:…..ertID=3794

  34. There are many areas where the ACLU could be better but I’ve found most right-wing attacks on the group to be, shall we say, dismissive of the facts. They come up with accusations that are either vastly exaggerated or, as in this case, just lies. If I had to judge the group I’d give them a B- grade, which puts them way ahead of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, the Heritage Foundation, etc.

  35. See link above. And I’ll have a long string of links next week in which the ACLU has defended people who were fired from public positions or suspended from public schools for criticizing Islam.

      1. Since when has it been important to you to support UN policies?

  36. See link above. And I’ll have a long string of links next week in which the ACLU has defended people who were fired from public positions or suspended from public schools for criticizing Islam.

    1. I like the way the goal post gets shifted to a national vs local chapter debate.

      1. The Grady County GA NAACP is headed by the Libertarian Party candidate (John Monds) who received the highest vote total (over a million) in any election by any LP candidate (including all POTUS races). They take libertarian positions. Does that outweigh the National NAACP agenda?

        Does the actions of your local Humane Society counter the radical animal rights campaign (worse than PETA) of the Humane Society of the United States?

        Citing the good work of a state or local chapter of the ACLU is moving the goalposts when you’re talking about the priorities of the national ACLU.

        1. Dude, you’re the one claiming that “the ACLU does x” or “the ACLU believes x” when there are plenty of contradictory examples. The national organization may set the goalposts, but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that there is both a lot of diversity within and a lot of positive actions from the ACLU on different levels.

          And every person here has qualified their praise of the ACLU with the recognition that they are very wrong on certain issues. I can still praise the Heritage Institute when they make a good economic argument or when they critique the war. The ACLU are demonstrably better than most organizations re: liberty, yet you seem unwilling to give them their due credit.

  37. Those concerned with facts and modern conservatives–not really a congruent set, or even nearly so. This is a revelation to you?

    Hate first, deal with facts later (if ever)–that is more like it. Just like the old New Left. But instead of being enchanted with the Black Panthers, they have the noble Tea Partiers, who shall surely save us all.

    Uh, yeah.

  38. If you don’t love the ACLU, you’re a Limbaugh-sucking Christ-fag. EVERYTHING they do is golden.

    1. LOL! That’s a good one. Except for the Christ fag.

  39. Radley,

    Instead of constantly trying to re-explain yourself, you should have just posted “criticism of one’s opponents is not the same as endorsement” over and over again each time you were questioned.

  40. I think Teach’s and other “righties” criticism of the ACLU on this is more fair than accurate. To wit, the ACLU may in fact be criticizing the TSA, but what the critics don’t realize they are pointing out is not that the ACLU isn’t criticizing the TSA, but that the mainstream media isn’t covering that criticism to any extent, which gives the average ACLU-aware person the impression that the ACLU isn’t doing anything.

    I think Radley Balko is the rare example of a news-consumer going to the head of the stream for the source rather than waiting for bottled water at the other end. Most people would never go to the ACLU web site to find this out on their own. (And, yes, I’m allowing that Teach has a blind spot that caused him to miss the TSA criticism when he searched the ACLU site because he wasn’t expecting to find it since he hadn’t seen it reported on).

  41. Oh, my God! D’ya think they’re gonna write a letter?!?

  42. Thanks for PROVING THE CONSERVATIVES RIGHT with this article. Not a single case you point to is a lawsuit against the TSA – on other issues, they’ve sued. On the issue of kids being molested, they just tell people off.

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