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Defending the ACLU.

I very much enjoyed Ruth Conniff's column highlighting the work of civil liberties champion David Cole ("Staying Engaged," February issue). But a reference to the ACLU in this otherwise excellent piece is incorrect.

Commenting on recent repressive government initiatives, Conniff wrote that the ACLU "nearly caved on screening employees against a government list."

That is not true. We immediately withdrew from the Combined Federal Campaign, a workplace charity program administered by the government, after we learned for the first time on July 31 that the government expected recipients to check their employees' names against a watch list.

As ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said unequivocally in a statement issued that same day, "The ACLU will not be intimidated. We will not compromise. We will never check any of our employees against a government list. And we absolutely will not accept any funding that undermines or threatens our principles or our mission.

Further, in August we formed a coalition in opposition to the watch list policy, and in November we joined forces with twelve national nonprofits in a lawsuit challenging the watch list policy.

I should note that more than 2,000 charities participated in this program in addition to the ACLU, including other civil rights and civil liberties defenders such as Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Many of them also withdrew from the program after learning of the government's expectations (Amnesty joined in our lawsuit, as well).

I'm sure that none of the groups that withdrew from the program because of the objectionable policy would want to be characterized as having "nearly caved" on screening employees.

Emily Whitfield

Media Relations Director

ACLU National Office

New York, New York
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Author:Whitfield, Emily
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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