Monday, February 09, 2009

Restoring America

Today ACS and the CLS ACLU welcomed Susan Herman, President of the ACLU, for a discussion of the ACLU's transition plan for the new administration. The ACLU has prepared Actions for Restoring America, an action plan for the Obama adminstration to folow in "reparing the damage to freedom in American after Bush." Ms. Herman spoke about the plan's short-term and long-term objectives, describing it as the ACLU's wish list.

The ACLU hoped that on his first day in officer, President Obama would stop torture, close Guantanamo, and end extraordinary rendition. Ms. Herman felt that progress has been made on all of these fronts, but that it is still unclear what their eventual outcome will be. Obama has issued an Executive Order that calls for Guantanamo to be closed, but it remains uncertain whether his administration will see a continued need to hold enemy combatants. It is also unclear as to what will happen with some of the detainees. While some can be released and some tried in federal courts, some detainees cannot be safely returned home due to the threat of harm upon their return. Still other detainees are legitimately dangerous and guilty of criminal acts, yet would prove impossible to prosecute in federal court (see the ACS Blog's recent coverage of this issue). So far the Obama administration has not made it clear that there will be no further preventative detention.

Furthermore, Obama's Executive Order limits interrogation techniques to be employed by government employees to those in the Army Field Manual, but it is yet unclear as to whether this will also prevent individuals who are not government employees from engaging in torture.

Ms. Herman also reviewed some of the ACLU's longer-range objectives for the new administration, including a revived DOJ Civil Rights Division, the end of the abortion gag rule, the end of discrimination against sexual minorities by the federal government and its contractors, and a moratorium on the federal death penalty under its racial disparities are addressed.

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