The Un-Civil Liberties Union

Letter From the Land of the Free

When I undertook a study of the ACLU, I had no idea that the politics surrounding my investigation would prove to be as revealing as the research itself. Maybe more so.

My first taste of the politics of the ACLU came during an interview with Aryeh Neier, past executive director of the ACLU. The interview lasted about 15 minutes. He ordered me out of his office, complaining that he didn't like the nature of my questions. I was asking him to explain discrepancies in ACLU policies. That was something I shouldn't have done. Live and learn.

Other ACLU officials proved to be equally sensitive. While doing research at the national headquarters in New York City, I incurred the wrath of employees when I admitted that I was looking for reasons why policy positions had been changed on so many issues. They demanded examples. I mentioned the ACLU's adamant opposition to the ERA for some 30 years before the elevation of its consciousness in 1970. They blasted me for telling untruths. When shown the evidence, they showered me with a stern lecture on how I ought to handle the incendiary findings. I thanked them for respecting my freedom of inquiry and making me feel right at home.

It gets better. When I told Alan Reitman, Associate Director of the ACLU, that I was planning to write a book on the organization, he asked me to supply him with an outline and sample chapter so that he could assess whether he might be...

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