Why ACLU’s Head Honcho is “Disgusted” With Obama

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Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, is “disgusted” with President Obama,” he told a conference of progressive activists on Wednesday. Politico‘s Josh Gerstein has a short piece on the quote, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The ACLU has been the central bulwark against the relentless weakening of civil liberties protections since 9/11. Civil liberties activists fervently hoped that Obama, a former constitutional law professor, would be different. I talk to people in this community often, and there is definitely a sense of despair now. Think about some of the things Obama has done (or not done) that affect civil liberties:

  1. He hasn’t closed Guantanamo.
  2. More important, he hasn’t ended the indefinite detention without trial that makes Guantanamo so controversial.
  3. He’s still using military commissions instead of the federal court system, and has backed away from plans to try the 9/11 suspects in New York.
  4. He seems to believe he can order the “targeted killing” of American citizens, without trial or other due process.
  5. His Justice Department has mounted a wide-ranging investigation of the Guantanamo defense bar. That investigation is reportedly led by Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney that some civil liberties activists wanted to investigate the Bush administration’s torture and detention policies.
  6. He hasn’t authorized a full, independent investigation of torture, let alone a criminal probe of the people who supposedly authorized it.
  7. He has embraced the use of the state secrets privilege in order to shield the government from inconvenient lawsuits.
  8. He has launched an all-out war on national security whistleblowers and leakers.
  9. He’s pursued the right to detain anyone indefinitely, without formal review, in Afghanistan—even if they weren’t captured there.
  10. He’s reauthorized controversial Patriot Act wiretapping provisions.
  11. He pushed for and signed a new law allowing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to block the release of photos of detainee abuse.

People can disagree on civil liberties. But given their positions on these issues, no one should expect Romero and the ACLU to be anything but disillusioned.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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