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The War on Liberties + Shredding the Constitution

Program #HRMS001-GREG001.

First Program: The War On Liberties

Voltaire said, "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." In the decade of fear since 9/11 the government has constructed a vast apparatus of control and surveillance. Your most obvious experience is at the airport but it extends way beyond that. Big Brother is watching. Basic liberties are under attack all in the name of protecting those liberties. National security is ritually invoked to cover a range of violations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The beacon of freedom descends into a twilight zone of criminality. The state has 16 intelligence agencies with untold billions at their disposal in black budgets, operating in secret, carrying out black operations and following what are called presidential findings. Defending liberties is not what they are about. And they sometimes confuse dissent with disloyalty.

Second Program: Shredding the Constitution

The Constitution is often referred to in reverential, almost sacred terms. Its framers too are endowed with near holy qualities. Politicians vie with one another as they pay lip service to the country's founding document. But over the years from the Palmer Raids to political witch-hunts known as McCarthyism to COINTELPRO to the present, the Constitution has been violated by the government. Criminalization of dissent, a hallmark of totalitarian regimes, is increasing. The FBI raids the homes and offices of anti-war activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. It has targeted Greenpeace and other environmental and peace and justice groups. Citizens are spied upon. E-mails are read. Phones are tapped. And everywhere cameras take pictures. In the name of security basic freedoms are being eroded as state policing agencies accrue more and more power.


Susan Herman

Susan Herman is President of the American Civil Liberties Union. She holds a chair as Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School, where she teaches courses and seminars in Constitutional Law, Terrorism, and Civil Liberties. She is the author of The Sixth Amendment and Taking Liberties.

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