The ACLU, On Notice

November 21st, 2006 5:47 pm by Kelly Garbato

After doing some more digging re: the ACLU’s position on AETA, I’m now convinced enough that they screwed us to do the previously unthinkable: put them On Notice.
 

The ACLU, On Notice

 
And – if they don’t watch their sorry arses – they may soon be Dead To Me. Assuming I can find a Dead To Me generator.

Anyway, back to that Kinship Circle alert for a moment. Rumor #4 involves the ACLU’s opposition – or lack thereof – to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

The whole section, verbatim:

4. QUESTION/RUMOR: The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) didn’t take a stand for free speech by opposing AETA.

4. CLARIFICATION

From D. Barber, Correspondence Manager, American Civil Liberties Union:

The ACLU Letter to Congress Urging Opposition to the Animal Enterprise Act, S. 1926 and H.R. 4239 (3/6/2006) can be read at www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/25620leg20060306.html.

If you are not already an ACLU member, we encourage you to help support our aggressive work on the issues you care about. To join please visit www.aclu.org/contribute/contribute.cfm or call 1-888-567-ACLU. Once again, thank you for your interest in the ACLU.

Sincerely, D. Barber, Correspondence Manager, American Civil Liberties Union

11/14/06, from Karen Dawn, news [at] dawnwatch.com:

Actually, Sensenbrenner lied about lack of opposition from the ACLU. Sigh. ACLU did not oppose the whole bill but did ask for changes: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/27356leg20061030.html.

After contacting Kinship Circle for clarification, I was told that they were simply providing information regarding the ACLU’s stance on AETA, and leaving it to KC readers to draw their own conclusions.

My conclusion: at best, the ACLU is being duplicitous in their replies to animal advocates who dare to criticize the ACLU’s actions on AETA. Worst-case scenario – they totally sold us out.

Let’s have a little looksee at the facts, shall we?

1. The ACLU initially opposed both the Senate and House versions of AETA (S. 1926 and H.R. 4239), as is reflected in their letter to Congress dated 3/6/06, “ACLU Letter to Congress Urging Opposition to the Animal Enterprise Act, S. 1926 and H.R. 4239.”

2. The next publicly available piece of correspondence from the ACLU regarding AETA is dated 10/30/06. The subject: “ACLU Urges Minor Changes to AETA, But Does Not Oppose Bill (S. 3880, the ‘Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act’).”

As if the subject heading isn’t clear enough, I’ll also provide a direct quote from the body of the letter: “The ACLU does not oppose this bill, but believes that these minor changes are necessary to make the bill less likely to chill or threaten freedom of speech.”

In other words, they acknowledge that the bill, as is, does appear likely to “chill or threaten freedom of speech” – yet they no longer oppose it, even if the suggested changes are not implemented.

3. In the ACLU’s response to Kinship Circle, they provide a link to the March letter, but conveniently omit a link to the more recent October letter – which represent a complete 180 from their original position. The rest of their reply (which is a pithy four sentences) is spent shilling for donations…after lying (or, at the very least, being misleading) about their efforts on behalf of animal advocates.

4. Will Potter of GreenIsTheNewRed.com has been all over AETA, with comprehensive news and analysis. He’s also concluded that, contrary to what the ACLU is telling complainants, ultimately they failed to oppose the bill.

5. Additionally, a number of commenters at Green is the New Red have posted the replies that they received from the ACLU. Some received emails similar to that posted by Kinship Circle; these deceptively reference the March letter while ignoring the October capitulation. Other ACLU responses are equally deceptive, but in a different way.

A few examples, each from this thread:

I am a member of the ACLU. I was appalled to think they would give Mr. Sensebrenner the chance to use them against the opponents of this terrible bill. I called them in NYC to protest. They sent me an e-mail copy of their actual letter, opp[posing the bill and detailing the anticonstutional and unjust provisions of the law. I just wanted to clarify this. If you would like a copy, please let me know. The ACLU categorically opposed the AETA.

and

I called the ACLU today to let them know that I think this should be a priority for them, especially in today’s political climate.

The person I spoke with was dismissive and made it clear that “you can’t win ’em all”. She ended the conversation with “my other line is ringing”.

The most interesting ACLU response, though, was this:

Here is the reponse I got from the ACLU re: AETA

“I want to make clear that ACLU did not and does not support the AETA. We believe that expanding 18 U.S.C. §43 was unnecessary. The ACLU opposed the original House of Representatives and Senate versions of the AETA because both included provisions that were vague, overbroad and unnecessary, and would have criminalized certain forms of expression that are clearly protected under the First Amendment. Additionally, the bills provided that the AETA would constitute a predicate crime that would allow federal criminal wiretapping. A copy of the letter that we sent to Congress in March urging opposition to the bill is attached.

In the months that followed, the ACLU Washington Legislative Office worked to gain several important improvements to the bill, which was recently reintroduced as S. 3880.

The wiretapping provision was removed entirely from the Senate version. Under the Senate bill, the “economic damage” that could trigger liability “does not include any lawful economic disruption (including a lawful boycott) that results from lawful public, governmental, or business reaction to the disclosure of information about an animal enterprise.” The original bill did not address lawful boycotts, which are clearly protected First Amendment activity.

Another revision was aimed at protecting advocacy. The Senate bill makes clear that only damage to “real or personal” property is the kind of economic damage that triggers liability. The original bill used the term “any property,” leaving open the possibility of even claiming damage to intellectual property (trademark dilution and tarnishment, for example).

Though ACLU secured enough significant improvements in the Senate version of the legislation to drop its opposition, we continued to advocate further clarifications and we sent a letter to key members of the House of Representatives seeking additional changes. A copy of that letter is also attached.

While we were disappointed that the final version of the bill passed by the House did not incorporate the changes we urged in our letter of October 30, we certainly did achieve significant improvements in the language compared to the language of the bill in its original form. The ACLU will monitor the bill’s application to determine any future course of action.”

I’ll address the problems with this – their most in-depth answer to criticism – in a moment.

First, allow me to point out the obvious conclusions drawn from facts 1-5:

* The ACLU is clearly aware that AETA is designed to threaten the free speech of animal advocates and protect the interests of animal “enterprises.” With or without the changes suggested by the ACLU in their October letter, AETA is blatantly unconstitutional. And, ‘scuse me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the ACLU supposed to defend our constitutionally protected rights?

* The ACLU either 1) doesn’t have their shit together or 2) knows that they made a mistake, and are now lying their butts off in order to confuse their critics. The standard form letters that the ACLU is sending out conveniently point to an old, outdated letter that shows that they opposed AETA back in March ’06 – even though they’d changed their position by the time the bill was voted on in October. Either the interns fielding complaints don’t realize this – or they’re misleading the public. My vote is for the latter.

Which makes me wonder about their motivations. Are the civil liberties of “crazy animal rights activists” less important than the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to harass grieving military families? Or do they seriously think that we’re more radioactive than Fred Phelps? Which is it – y’all don’t think we’re worth defending, or you just don’t want the negative association with a bunch of animal nuts?

According to the last ACLU correspondence quoted above, the ACLU thinks that they did defend us. If so, why lie about their actual stance re: AETA?

The ACLU claims that they “secured enough significant improvements in the Senate version of the legislation to drop its opposition” – even though they admit in their October letter that they “[do] not oppose this bill, but [believe] that these minor changes are necessary to make the bill less likely to chill or threaten freedom of speech.” Read: the bill that they do not oppose is “likely to chill or threaten freedom of speech” (!). WTF!?

Finally, with or without the changes that the ACLU was able to procure, AETA is 100% unnecessary. Not only does it target a specific group of activists based on their ideology alone, it addresses criminal behaviors that are already against the law! Arson, trespassing, vandalism, harassment – all are already crimes prosecutable under existing law. Additionally, a law directed at animal advocates was already passed in 1992 (see: Animal Enterprise Protection Act) – and, contrary to the animal abusers’ complaints, activists have been prosecuted and convicted under AEPA (see: the SHAC 7)…for running a website on which they published the names and home addresses of animal researchers. Which makes me wonder: when is Michelle Malkin’s court date, hmmm?

Maybe I’m missing something here. I pray to His Noodliness that I am – because, up until now, I had great respect for the ACLU, and defended 99% of their policies, even the most distasteful. Which makes it twice as hurtful to think that animal advocates are more toxic than pedophiles and gay bashers.

Until someone convinces me otherwise, the ACLU will languish on my On Notice Board. If you agree, contact info here.

(Crossposted at KellyGarbato.com.)

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8 Responses to “The ACLU, On Notice”

  1. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » Now *that’s* rich. Says:

    […] A little holiday ditty via the ACLU. You know – the so-called “defenders of civil liberties” who, shall we say, “tacitly” supported the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). An Overdue Visit […]

  2. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » AETA News Roundup Says:

    […] My only quibble is that they, too, buy into the myth that the ACLU opposed AETA throughout its many incarnations: Many civil rights organizations oppose AETA. The American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress expressing its concern that “…the bill would also make the expanded crime a predicate for Title III federal criminal wiretapping. This provision could be used for widespread domestic surveillance….A court will be far more likely to find probable cause for a vague crime of causing economic damage or disruption to an animal enterprise than for a crime that requires some evidence that the organization plans to engage in activity causing illegal ” ‘physical disruption.’ “ […]

  3. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » ‘The War on Terra’, for kids! Says:

    […] Case in point: the civil liberties of animal rights terrorists activists aren’t even worth the ACLU’s time. Yup, we’re lower down on the food chain than Fred Phelps and NAMBLA. Indeed, I keep up with a number of liberal blogs, and “those animal rights extremists” are one of the few topics on which the bloggers and their trolls can routinely agree (to rag) on. […]

  4. easyVegan.info » Blog Archive » ACLU: Sign the Petition - Restore the Constitution Says:

    […] When you get to Question #2, “What’s the issue that matters most to you?”, be sure to drop in a snarky-but-serious line about AETA. Yeah, still hurtin’ over that one. […]

  5. Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » The ACLU, On Notice Says:

    […] (Crossposted at easyVegan.info.) […]

  6. Who needs the ACLU when you’ve got the CCR? » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] reals. The ACLU completely stabbed the animal advocacy community in the throat when it failed to take a stand against the AETA. Even now, 2 1/2 years later, a search of the ACLU’s website turns up one pithy reference to […]

  7. Good morning, Sunshine! » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] * They’re like the ACLU, but with principles n stuff. […]

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