National Security

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
-- Benjamin Franklin,
Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)

Throughout U.S. history, "national security" has often been used as a pretext for massive violations of individual rights.

In the 1940s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Today, virtually all Americans recognize the internment as an unjustified action that compromised the fundamental freedoms that make America great.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, mobilized our country in the fight against terrorism. However, 9/11 also launched one of the most serious civil liberties crises our nation has ever seen.

The USA-Patriot Act and related government actions undercut many important checks and balances on government law enforcement and intelligence powers. The most powerful parts of this sweeping legislation take away checks on law enforcement and threaten the very rights and freedoms that we are struggling to protect. For example, without a warrant and without probable cause, the FBI now has the power to access your most private medical records, your library records, and your student records ... and can prevent anyone from telling you it was done, even if it turns out to have no connection with a terrorism investigation.

In Oregon, the ACLU led the way to protect two unique Oregon laws under attack after 9/11. ORS 181.575 prohibits law enforcement from spying on people based solely on religious, political or associational activities. ORS 181.850 prohibits law enforcement from enforcing federal (civil) immigration laws when a person is not suspected of any criminal activity. As a result of a 65-member coalition, those two laws were preserved from various attempts to weaken or eliminate them in the 2003 Oregon legislature.

If we allow the interests of "national security" to take away our freedoms, we surrender what it is to be an American.


Latif, et al. v. Holder, et al.

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Unconstitutional “No Fly List”

In June 2010, the ACLU and its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California, and New Mexico filed a legal challenge on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and permanent residents who cannot fly to or from the U.S. or over American airspace because they are on the government’s secretive No Fly List (an additional five people have since joined the suit). The plaintiffs, who include four U.S. military veterans, have never been told why they are on the list or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. Being unable to fly has severely affected their lives, including their ability to be with their families, go to school, and travel for work.


Mayfield v. United States of America

Constitutional Challenge to USA-Patriot Act

December 10, 2009 - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Brandon Mayfield has no standing to pursue his claims against illegal seach and seizure in his challenge to the constitutionality of portions of the USA-Patriot Act.



ACLU Urges Lake Oswego to Consider Alternative Agreement With FBI

April 16, 2013 - Lake Oswego City Council is set to vote on a proposal to join the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) this evening, without discussion. The ACLU is urging the Council to postpone the vote until more details on the agreement between local law enforcement and the FBI can be reviewed.

UPDATE: April 17, 2013 - The Lake Oswego City Council voted unanimously to join the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).


The efforts to improve communication and cooperation among law enforcement agencies, including between the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, is important. As yesterday’s events in Boston have once again illustrated, such cooperation can be essential to protect public safety. However, the FBI and other federal agencies operate under very different laws and policies than state and local police agencies are required to follow here in Oregon.

Unfortunately, the FBI’s standard agreement for participation by local agencies in their Joint Terrorism Task Forces does not make any accommodation for those different standards and requirements. Indeed, that standard agreement makes it extremely likely that local police officers, once deputized as members of the FBI JTTF, will engage in activities that violate the important protections and safeguards of Oregon law and the Oregon Constitution.


Portland and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force

Annual JTTF Report Still Lacks Important Details

March 27, 2013 - ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque testified before Portland City Council urging them to reject the recently released Portland Police Bureau's (PPB) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) Report. The report contains few details , "... not enough detail to truly inform the public of the nature of PPB’s participation on the JTTF – certainly not enough to compel anyone to point to Portland as a model of transparency," Fidanque said.

The City Council voted to accept the report in a 3-2 vote despite concerns by many of the commissioners over the lack of information contained in the report.

Final Portland Reports on JTTF Greatly Improved, But…

February 29, 2012 – Significantly modified reports on the City of Portland’s relationship with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) were approved by the City Council after the ACLU’s testified they were greatly improved, but still lacked data that would permit the public to independently confirm that Oregon law and the Constitution are being honored by the City.



Federal Court Sides With ACLU in No Fly List Lawsuit

Court Recognizes Due Process Rights of Americans on List

August 29, 2013 – A federal court in Portland, Oregon ruled late yesterday that constitutional rights are at stake when the government places Americans on the No Fly List, agreeing with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. That suit challenges the process for attempting to get off the list as unfair, inadequate, and unconstitutional. The decision also asked the ACLU and the government to submit additional information about the No Fly List redress procedure in order to help the court decide the ultimate question of whether it satisfies the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process.

"This decision is a critically important step towards vindicating the due process rights of Americans on the No Fly List," said ACLU Staff Attorney Nusrat Choudhury, one of the attorneys who argued the case in June. "For the first time, a federal court has recognized that when the government bans Americans from flying and smears them as suspected terrorists, it deprives them of constitutionally protected liberties, and they must have a fair process to clear their names. The No Fly List procedures violate due process because the government refuses to provide any explanation or a hearing for innocent Americans to challenge their inclusion, and we look forward to making that case to the court."


ACLU in Court Friday for No Fly List Challenge

Lawsuit Argues List Violates Constitution's Due Process Guarantee

June 20, 2013 - PORTLAND - The American Civil Liberties Union will be in federal court tomorrow asking a judge to declare unconstitutional the government's practice of banning people from flying without giving them any notice, reasons, or meaningful way to clear their names.

"We're asking the court to finally put a check on the government's use of a blacklist that denies Americans the ability to fly without giving them the explanation or fair hearing that the Constitution requires. It's a question of basic fairness," said ACLU Staff Attorney Nusrat Choudhury, one of the ACLU attorneys who will argue the case Friday in Portland. "It does not make our country safer to ban people from flying without giving them an after-the-fact redress process that allows them to correct the errors that led to their mistaken inclusion on the list."