Civil Liberties
Bertram C. Bruce
Graduate School of
Library & Information Science
U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
History
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1798 -- Alien & Sedition Acts
1862-65 -- Habeas Corpus
1917-20 -- deportations
1942 -- Executive Order 9066
1947-1954 -- HUAC, McCarthy
2001-present -- Patriot Act, IAO
1798 -- war raging in Europe
• Pres. John Adams initiates military
measures
• …leading to undeclared war with France
• opposition from Thomas Jefferson
• Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton,
accuse Democratic-Republicans of treason
Alien and Sedition Acts
• Alien Act: deport any non-citizen judged
dangerous to US peace and safety
– no right to a hearing or to present evidence
• Sedition Act: prohibit false, scandalous, or
malicious writing against the government
– aggressive criticism of Adams deemed unlawful
Later
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"Court of history" rules
Pres. Jefferson pardons all the convicted
Congress repays the fines
Federalist party declines in power
1862-65 -- Civil War
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more deaths than in any other US war
1/3 of soldiers were casualties
need for military security
fear of enemies at home
Suspend Writ of Habeas Corpus
• Pres. Abraham Lincoln suspends writ of
habeas corpus eight times
• "all persons,,, guilty of any disloyal
practice.. shall be subject to court martial"
• 38,000 civilians imprisoned
Later
• 1866: Supreme Court says Lincoln
exceeded his authority
• Habeas Corpus cannot be suspended, even
in war
1917-20 -- World War I
• US enters World War I
• many citizens believe the goal is not to
"make the world safe for democracy," but
to protect the interests and investments
of the wealthy
• fear of immigrants
Federal prosecutions
• 2000 people prosecuted for opposing the
war and the draft, up to 15 years in prison
• 245 people, including Emma Goldman,
deported to Russia.
• Supreme Court upholds convictions of
Eugene V. Debs and others
Later
• government releases every person who had
been convicted
• Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt grants amnesty,
restoring civil rights
• eventually, Supreme Court overrules every
WWI decision supporting actions against
dissent
1941-45 -- World war II
• Dec. 7, 1941: Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
• "loss of innocence"
• fear of resident Japanese
Executive Order 9066
• Feb. 19, 1942: designates military areas from
which "any persons may be excluded"
• 110,000 people forced to leave home; 2/3 were US
citizens
• no charges, no hearings, no knowledge of their
fate; many lose everything
• two days before, Atty, Gen, Francis Biddle: "no
evidence of any planned sabotage"
• 1944: Korematsu v US upholds FDR
Later
• 1980: Congress concludes Exec. Order
9066 violates civil rights
• 1988: Civil Liberties Act offers Pres.
apology and reparations
1950s -- Korean War, Cold War
• fear of Communism
• anti-Semitism
Investigations
• 1947: Parnell Thomas and the House Un-American
Activities Committee investigates organized labor,
the Federal Government, Hollywood
• 1950: Sen. McCarthy claims he has a list of "known
communists" employed by the State Department
• 1952: McCarthy becomes chair of the Permanent
Investigations Subcommittee
• 1951-52: hearings lead to "naming of names"; more
than 324 people fired by the studios and no longer
permitted to work
Later
• December, 1954: Senate votes to censure
McCarthy
What does this mean for today?
• Greater awareness of the importance of
civil liberties?
• Enlarged sensibility to global concerns?
• Expanded means for information exchange?
A pattern?
Conditions: war hysteria, racial and religious
prejudice, fear
(1) abridgement of civil liberties in the name
of patriotism
(2) hardship and injustices
(3) eventual repudiation of the war-based
laws and restoration of civil liberties
2001-03 -- Terrorism
• NYC World Trade Center attack on 9/11
• fear of terrorism
• racial and religious prejudice
Patriot Act I
• expands wiretaps, search warrants, pen/trap
orders, and subpoenas
• allows spying by foreign intelligence agencies
• FBI and CIA can now access phones and computers
w/o demonstrating use by a suspect or target of
an order
Patriot Act I -- more
• ISPs, libraries forced to hand over user
information
• new definitions of terrorism expand scope of
surveillance
• collection of DNA for "any crime of violence."
• information sharing between domestic law
enforcement and intelligence
Information Awareness Office
• will imagine, develop, apply, integrate,
demonstrate, and transition information
technologies, components, and prototype closedloop information systems that will counter
asymmetric threats by achieving total information
awareness that is useful for preemption, national
security warning, and national security decision
making.
• original IAO site
Patriot Act II
• removes Freedom of Information Act protections
for detainees
• nullifies consent decrees against state law
enforcement agencies that prevent spying on
individuals and organizations
• strips citizenship from anyone who gives "material
support" to any group that the Atty. Gen.
designates as a terrorist organization
Later?
"Naturally the common people don't
want war:
Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in
Germany. That is understood. But, after all, It is the leaders
of the country who determine the policy and it is always a
simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a
democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a
communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always
be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you
have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce
the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the
country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
--Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, 1946
References
• Schneider, Karen G.(2002, March) , The
Patriot Act: Last refuge of a scoundrel.
American Libraries.
• Stone, Geoffrey R. (2003, February 16).
Civil liberties at risk again: A U. S.
tradition. Chicago Tribune.