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The State of Civil Liberties

In terms of the question of where do you turn to for information? I do think there are several places where you can continue to find credible sources of information. I think there are several of the advocacy groups in Washington D.C. who regularly document for you what is playing out. I will tell you among our own, you can find information on our website, Safe and Free. It’s a specific area of our website where you can go and you can literally get Congressional testimony, analyses of legislation, criticisms of some of the resolutions, but you have a number of other groups that, even if you don’t trust the ACLU, you can also go to the national security archives, you can turn to the People for The American Way, who’s been doing very good work also on the terrorism effort. And then I think that one of things that is quite remarkable is that you can actually go to some of the government websites. That’s where I often go to see what they say about the actions that they’ve taken. The two media outlets that have done the best coverage have of course been the Washington Post and the Editorial pages of the New York Times. I’ve just recently met with the Editorial Board of the New York Times, and have just read every one of their editorials since September 11th. So they’re all fresh in my mind, and it’s been remarkable. My hat’s off to the Editorial pages. The coverage and the journalists I have a little bit more of a critique for, but the Editorial pages I think have been quite strong. So that’s where I would encourage you to go. And I do encourage you to keep checking our website. It gets updated everyday…testimony, speeches, analyses, debates, and you can engage us on the Internet. If you ever have concerns about the work, you should just email us. My email address is very simple. It’s [email protected] . I’m maniacal about answering my phone calls, my letters, my email and you should be in touch if you have other questions.

In terms of the intimidation of the judiciary, all one needs to do is read some of the pleadings that the government has filed after September 11th in some of these cases. It is remarkable. In the case I was citing to you in New Jersey, it begins with the governments legal papers, it begins with this conjuring up of the possible devastation that it says that the judiciary will never fully understand the danger that confronts the country. That what the government would just instill such fear…I can get you some of these initial paragraphs on these statements that are really meant to tell the judges “back-off, you don’t even wanna touch this, this is just too important to entrust in the hands of the judiciary.” And their swagger and the self-importance that often comes through on some of these documents, and even in some of the legal arguments that the government has undertaken is really quite remarkable. You can see that they are riding this tragedy for whatever it’s worth.

On intimidation of the press, you’ll see that I have a little bit of a sarcastic tone to my speech. I don’t want to leave you on a sarcastic note. But go back to early October when you had Condoleezza Rice telling the major broadcast outlets not to run the video tapes of Osama Bin Laden because they might possess secret messages to sleeper cells living in our midst and that this would be detrimental to the national interests and that in fact, all five of the major outlets did not run the tapes, and what’s truly unbelievable, I saw those tapes on Spanish-language television broadcast from Mexico City into my apartment in Chelsea late at night. I could see those very same tapes on the Internet. There were no statements, there was no proof that she alleged that secret messages were in fact communicated to the members of the public. It was just one of those moments when again this kind of very well articulated guidance to the press was done in such a way that it basically conjured up the same fear that the government lawyers had been using in some of their pleadings with the judges. And the fact that we still have not fully unpacked that, I find as an effort of intimidation. You find for instance that some of the journalists have not had access to coverage of the war, that were not allowed on the front lines. One of my major contributors, I know this will not stand well with my fellow feminists in the room, but one of my major contributors is Larry Flint from one of the pornography magazines on the west coast. And when I was visiting with him not too long ago, it was agency, to his credit, that has actually been fighting the fact the journalists have actually been shut out of the coverage of the war on the front lines. And the only reason why he threw his lawyers on this case is because he was frustrated that the other major outlets who were not also given access to the battlefield did not make such a case. And he would be very clear about the level of intimidation and of coercion that you find in the media. So I do think that there’s much for us to be concerned with and that’s why for me it’s essential to have this dialogue with you. Even though I think that these issues are very important and I wish that they were given the coverage and the prominence that they deserve, that my frustration means that I just have to find different ways of making sure that I engage as many individuals in the public, hear from you, your thoughts and your concerns. And I do want to encourage you to remain involved. Even if you disagree with us. Especially if you disagree with us. Keep involved in this debate, keep watching it. It is much too important. We have to ensure that what we do now is essential. Cause we will see that in fact whatever we do as a country and as a nation may change the way we think about our democracy and the way we think about the world going forward. So all I do is ask you to stay involved and remain engaged. Thank you very very much.