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 puttogether 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
- 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
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
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
- Links back to four prior ACLU website items critical of the new
- 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.
This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/448937.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comments so far on that entry.