Yeah, thank you. All right, I’ll be looking for those letters. Well, I do agree with what you’re saying, but I think when you’re asking about what the causes of September 11th were and you criticized the lack of intelligence coordination. I think a lot people also felt that to some degree it was also because the U.S. is too open of a society…that there was a general feeling that, “okay maybe we should close a few doors or tighten things up a little bit,” so I would ask you what you think is defensible, what is necessary, how you would respond to that general idea?
Well, you have to begin also with the premise, which I happen to share, that the INS is an agency that has been fundamentally broken for a number of administrations and that in fact that you need an agency that is strong enough and well-run enough to implement and to adhere to the nation’s immigration laws and that has not been often the case with the INS. We’ve seen faux pas after faux pas in terms of the letters to the terrorists that the INS sent out to them, the lack of compilation of information about terrorists who were on wanted lists and yet they were not often shared with airport security personnel, and you’d begin with the need for fundamental reform and revamping of that agency. That is something I very much believe is necessary. What has us concerned though is that even as we begin a process of reform which is long over due, that now becomes a steam-roller in terms of how some of the impacts on immigrant communities, on foreign students, on visitors, and others who’ve been here lawfully in this country, and that there’s such a zeal to reform the INS that we may throw out much more than we need to, and we may overcompensate for some of the difficulties and failings of that agency. When you look more broadly about, and I often get this question especially and I’ve been rather explicit that I don’t often or not always speak to the choir, the choir knows how I sing, how badly I sing, I’ve been insisting on speaking to audiences that are not in agreement with the ACLU and there was an audience where I spoke in Washington D.C. where I was on the panel with a criminal prosecutor of Achilles Lauro and I was on a panel with a man who worked for the Israeli intelligence agency and it was quite entertaining. I’d never had very high blood pressure until that day. And one of the questions that was put to me at the audience was, “Well Mr. Romero, what does the ACLU stand for. We hear what you oppose, but was is it that you would propose?” And actually there is quite a list of things that we’ve been proposing for a number of years that heretofore have not been implemented by law enforcement or the intelligence agencies. If you’ll go back and you’ll look at our website you’ll see a document almost seven years old which advocated the need for fortifying the cockpit door in the main cabin. You’ll see a list of efforts that would ensure that luggage be matched with passenger lists on airplanes…a remarkable fact that doesn’t happen in this country on domestic flights, and that in countries with far fewer resources for airline security, such as India, regular require their passengers to identify their luggage. I know, because I forgot to identify my luggage in an airport in Calcutta, and it stayed behind. And the fact that we did not mandate that until September 11th, and that in fact was not something that we required the airlines to do, we gave them special dispensation of many months after September 11th before they would begin that act, was remarkable to me. We will run and rush to judgment to change the immigration laws, surveillance, searches and seizures, and yet we will grant a time period, a grace period for the airlines to match luggage with passenger lists? You read in the last several days about the cargo ships and the fact that these cargo containers are not screened, that they merely go on the bona fides of a good shipper, and that these cargo ships come right into New York harbor, and when we talk about balancing safety with freedom, it seems that we must begin with those efforts that truly balance them quite well. Those are no-brainers from our democracies point of view. Those are the ones we should be rushing to implement, and we should be taking our time to review what we do with immigration, with surveillance, with privacy, those are the ones we should be engaging, and it seems we have it a bit on its head. We can go further, we’ve said for instance that we believe in the importance of being able to screen airport and airline security personnel to make sure that you have the individuals who are truly working on or around the planes to be the individuals we believe them to be. We’ve said that for awhile. Now, it seems that Congress has gone even a step further than that recommendation because they recently have enacted a rule that would require all airline security screeners to be U.S. citizens. Now this citizenship requirement, in addition to being obviously against protections of national origin discrimination, is just patently illogical. The fact that these lovely folks who sit behind these television cameras looking at your dental floss, have to be US citizens. Whereas the gentleman changing the food on the airplanes need not be, nor do the airline mechanics, nor do the people who check them in at the gate, nor do the stewardesses or the stewards, that we only impose a citizenship requirement on the airport screeners and not the rest of the airline personnel puts it all on its head. We’ve had to file a lawsuit in California challenging that citizenship requirement, not just pointing out the unconstitutionality aspects of it, but also the lack of logic that we think is in that new law. I think there are many efforts that we could all come and discuss and agree upon that we should implement right away and that we should just take our time and engage in a debate on the other ones that may have an impact on freedom and on liberty.
I don’t belong to the ACLU yet because I’ve been away for about 25 years from the United States, and I’ve come back rather astonished obviously at some of the attitudes that I see around. What you have done so commendably in dissecting and giving names and dates and actions to what has been to civil rights in America is wonderful. But one question, more and more and more you know that the defense, no matter how shrill it might be, is endless war on terrorism, terrorism forever, this and that and the rest of it. That war is a lower case war. We haven’t even declared war on anything since the Second World War, neither Korea nor Vietnam nor anything else. Is it within the purview of the ACLU or with other organization to actually challenge and to find out the definition of this war which excuses everything which you’ve talked about here.