Radical Conservatives

Nat Hentoff on Conservatives Rise for the Bill of Rights!

A significant development in the movement to resist the Ashcroft-Bush dismembering of the Bill of Rights is the growing coalition between conservative groups and such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way.

This has been going on—with only marginal attention from the media—since the ACLU organized a broad-based, though unsuccessful, fight to defeat the first USA Patriot Act toward the end of 2001. And it was the conservative Republican libertarian, Dick Armey, then majority leader in the House, who stripped the Orwellian “Operation Tips” out of the Department of Homeland Security bill.

Before retiring from Congress, Armey publicly accused the Justice Department of being “out of control” and “the most dangerous agency of government.” That is more than most of the Democratic congressional leadership has ever said.

Armey is right. Since Ashcroft took over, Justice has practically established itself as a separate government with nearly no oversight from the Administration or Congress. It is a renegade department and a dangerous one at that.

On April 2, the ACLU sent a letter to Congress signed by 67 liberal and conservative organizations—ranging from People for the American Way and the American Library Association to Gun Owners of America and Americans for Tax Reform. The head of the latter is Grover Norquist, who has frequent access to the upper echelons of the White House.

Coordinating this odd coalition of left-right groups has largely been the work of the ACLU and Free Congress Foundation. As a participant in several of these organizational letters, lawsuits, statements, etc., I have to say that both organizations have my respect and gratitude for leading the charge on protection of our civil liberties. It’s not everyday that you see such politically diverse organizations such as the Eagle Forum and People for the American Way in agreement on an issue. I look forward to continuing to work with the ACLU, Free Congress Foundation or anyone else interested in preserving what so many Americans have sacrificed and died to establish and protect – liberty.

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