Military and Police

ACLU — No Longer a Trusted Advocate for Everyone’s Civil Rights

I just read an article about the ACLU’s opposition to Amazon selling facial recognition technology to law enforcement agencies. It was the ACLU, so I rolled my eyes. Not surprising. Then I remembered there was a time when I seriously considered the ACLU’s position on these issues because of their reputation as an unswerving defender of constitutional rights—for all. Sadly, now when I see the organization either supporting or opposing an issue, I dismiss it as just one of many unimportant opinions from leftwing groups engaged in the resistance.

(Credit: Facebook/ACLU)

There was a time when the ACLU would tick off people across the political landscape. The organization was famous for its objectivity in defending civil rights, particularly the First Amendment. While it was renowned for defending minorities victimized by institutional racism, it would also, infamously, defend Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, and other white supremacists’ free speech rights. For the ACLU—of oldeveryone’s rights deserved to be protected.

Consider this from Newsweek: “Since its founding during a period of anti-communist paranoia in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has served as a reliable line of defense for those who find their constitutional freedoms under threat.” Newsweek’s Josh Lowe also wrote that the ACLU was the only major civil rights organizations to announce its opposition to FDR’s WWII Japanese-American Internment. At the other end of the spectrum in 1934, the ACLU supported German-American Nazis’ (real Nazis) right to hold meetings in the U.S.

But all that is changing—has changed. In an ironic twist, the ACLU has announced strict guidelines going forward for defending protesters and demonstrators. According to the LA Times, “the ACLU would not defend groups that wanted to incite violence or march ‘armed to the teeth.’” Armed to the teeth?

Leftist organizations such as the ACLU cavalierly conflate terms such as “hate speech” and “white supremacist” with undeserving conservatives and Republicans. By misapplying these labels, has the former civil rights group forever compromised its mission to defend all Americans’ civil liberties? It seems it surrendered its commitment to defend every victim of such government abuse.

The ACLU is now applying this new policy to refuse to represent peaceful gun rights supporters engaged in an open-carry demonstration for which both the First and Second Amendments apply? Oddly, despite common sense and Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, the ACLU stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the Second Amendment is an individual right, not a collective right, which is the view it has adopted.

So, the ACLU says “People” in the First Amendment means the individual, but “People” in the Second Amendment means the collective. Well then, maybe, People in the First Amendment should also be interpreted as the collective? According to the ACLU’s reasoning, why not?

If we apply the ACLU’s logic to the First Amendment, maybe the People’s freedom of speech means only their government representatives, senators and congress people, may speak for them. I mean, if the ACLU believes only federal, state, and local government military and police forces should be allowed to carry firearms, then, perhaps, only government officials should be allowed to speak for the People. Or, am I missing something?

In defending the new restrictions, an ACLU California affiliate stated, “The First Amendment should never be used as a shield or sword to justify violence.” I find this comical coming from a group that has long defended violent leftwing demonstrators across the country who cause property damage and block public roadways as a routine part of their “peaceful” demonstrations.

Today’s ACLU, once one of America’s foremost civil rights organizations, ain’t your grandparents’ American Civil Liberties Union. Not remotely. With the intellectual honesty the organization once embraced, whether or not you liked the organization, you had to respect its consistency.

In fact, in a recent Newsmax.com article, respected Harvard law school legend Alan Dershowitz commented about the ACLU, upon whose board he’d once sat and had served with pride. His comment had the accuracy of a laser-guided missile, “Since the election of President Trump, [the ACLU] has sunk to a new low, becoming a cheerleader for the violation of the civil liberties of those on the other side of the political spectrum.”

Dershowitz was referring to the Fourth and Sixth Amendment violations he says the FBI/DOJ may have committed in connection with the raid of President Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen. I don’t know, maybe the ACLU is looking to also scrap defending the Fourth and Sixth Amendments along with the Second.

(Credit: Facebook/Fox News)

Today, the ACLU has reduced itself to just another of the once proudly-liberal organizations that have surrendered their legitimate civil rights legacies to radical leftists. Along with the NAALCP (credit to Rush Limbaugh) and NOLW (the inserted L’s stand for Leftist), the ALCLU has declared a political side. Over the past few decades the organization has veered hard left.

Recently, the NAACP, South Carolina Chapter president, Jerrod Moultrie, a reverend no less, lied about his encounter with a police officer during a traffic stop. It was a lie captured by the officer’s body camera. And need I remind you about the NAA(WPWTTB)P (White People Who Think They’re Black) Rachel Dolezal? Whom, by the way, was just accused of welfare fraud.

And, with President Trump appointing the first woman CIA director in American history, I decided to Bing (not a big Google fan these days) “National Organization for Women congratulates CIA Director Gina Haspel.” The absent page-links were telling. Maybe there were some, but I wasn’t about to spend too much time searching for a hint of any kind words from NOW for this amazing woman and her accomplishments.

I suppose, to be fair, perhaps there were positive comments, possibly from individual NOW members if not as an organization. The fact nothing popped up on the initial searches is an indictment against an organization whose supposed reason for existing is to support women—all women, and I would think celebrate their accomplishments. I wish I were wrong. Maybe someone will find a kind, or even just a civil word for Ms. Haspel.

Back to the ACLU. According to an article from UPI reported on May 22, 2018, the ACLU has asked Amazon to stop selling Rekognition, its facial recognition technology, to the police. The ACLU says it’s concerned with law enforcement misusing the technology to “easily build a system to automate the identification and tracking of anyone.” One agency is already using the technology: the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon, near Portland and bordering Washington State.

(Credit: Facebook/Tech at B)

I sympathize with what the ACLU says is its concerns about government abuse and the possibility of police agencies illegally spying on Americans. However, I’d have much more faith in the organization if it showed half as much concern for the misuse of federal government power against, first a Republican presidential candidate, and then a sitting Republican U.S. President. Professor Dershowitz highlighted the ACLU’s precarious stance on that issue. Sadly, the ACLU has demonstrated it is simply a part of a resistance that demeans any organization claiming to revere civil rights.

The ACLU has been appallingly silent about the government sponsored civil liberties abuses that are becoming clearer every day, abuses which have been directed at an American presidential campaign. A Republican one. Why is it that I know if the parties were reversed, and this had happened to a Democrat candidate, the ACLU would be leading the charge to investigate the massive potential for wrongdoing that seems has occurred against the Trump campaign and then a Republican administration?

And now, the ACLU wants to stand in the way of law enforcement using facial recognition technology, which can do enormous good, because someone “might” abuse their authority. News for you ACLU: that’s the chance we take with all technologies. Now, since the ACLU is more often anti-cop on police issues, and pro-left generally, how can you trust that organization’s motivations?

As a Seattle cop, I remember seeing many ACLU lawyers monitoring for “police abuses” at the numerous leftist demonstrations I worked, many of which turned violent. I also remember not seeing ACLU lawyers monitoring any Tea Party or other conservative groups exercising their free speech.

I heard a recent example of the ACLU’s metamorphosis from independent civil rights champion to social justice hack organization. The other morning, John Carlson, a host on KVI 570 AM radio, spoke to a caller he said he knew was a Seattle police officer. The officer was commenting on the vagrant population blighting Seattle and provided an anecdote illustrating just one of the many problems surrounding the “homeless” issue.

Obviously, I don’t recall the conversation verbatim, but here’s the gist: The officer said he was sent on a call to investigate a sexual assault of a female who’d been living on the streets. The victim reported having been abducted and then held against her will for days in a makeshift structure, which she described as cabin-like. She said a suspect had raped her repeatedly over the course of her confinement.

The officer said the victim was of course justifiably upset but spoke credibly. But, he said based on the lack of solid information, he could not verify her story at the time and could not locate the crime scene or a suspect. His preliminary investigation ended after assisting the victim, writing a police report, and then sending the report to detectives for follow-up.

Not too long after his investigation, the officer said he was assigned to help remove illegal campers and shelters from a squatter’s encampment. During the removal, the officer noticed a “hovel” that appeared to match the description of the structure the rape victim had provided him.

He contacted his sergeant and asked if he could search the structure for evidence of the rape. His sergeant said the officer would have to get a warrant first. The officer explained they were destroying the lodgings and didn’t have time to get a warrant. Under these circumstances, the supervisor gave the officer permission to search the shack for evidence.

But wait…

When officers conduct these encampment sweeps in Seattle, the city’s Navigation Team, composed of six city agencies, must accompany them to offer services to the trespassers living in illegal shelters, most of whom decline the offers. And…drumroll, please: Attorneys from the ACLU also attend.

The officer said the particular attorney accompanying him protested his wanting to search the condemned shack for evidence of a reported brutal, multiple sexual assault. In fact, the officer reported that the attorney said not only would she sue the department and the officer acting as a cop but also him personally, if he searched the structure.

He said he succumbed to her bully tactics and didn’t search it. The officer conceded he was embarrassed he didn’t fight harder against the lawyer. He said, in the moment, thoughts of putting food on the table and keeping a roof over his family’s heads had won out.

This is another obvious example of de-policing. Why should an officer conduct any investigation when they encounter such obstructionist leftists? This attitude is common in leftist-run cities, and it’s not new. Back in the early 2000s, my partner agreed to take a University of Washington law school student on a ride-along.

The first question she asked him, as she settled into the passenger seat of his patrol car, was “How do you racially profile people?” No kidding. And the officer is Asian. Oh, the ride ended right there.

As a libertarian, I am sensitive about the potential government abuse of any surveillance technologies (again, just look at all the federal surveillance abuses that appear to have been directed at the Trump presidential campaign). But I have to ask how we can trust the ACLU to be a dependable spokes-group opposing law enforcement’s use of facial-recognition technology?

Seems they only support civil rights if you are on the political left. And not only are they no longer earning Americans’ trust but, also, they have squandered the trust they once had.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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