ACLU: TN Law Enforcement Tracking Free Speech

Press Release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee; Dec. 21, 2010:

NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) today learned that the government-run Tennessee Fusion Center is highlighting on its website map of “Terrorism Events and Other Suspicious Activity” a recent ACLU-TN letter to school superintendents. The letter encourages schools to be supportive of all religious beliefs during the holiday season. While the ostensible purpose of fusion centers, to improve sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different levels and arms of government, is legitimate and important, using the centers to monitor protected First Amendment activity clearly crosses the line.

“It is deeply disturbing that Tennessee’s fusion center is tracking First Amendment-protected activity,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director. “Equating a group’s attempts to protect religious freedom in Tennessee with suspicious activity related to terrorism is outrageous. Religious freedom is a founding principle in our Constitution-not fodder for overzealous law enforcement.”

Fusion centers are institutions created after 9/11 to allow various agencies within a state to share and analyze information about terrorism and other threats to American communities. The ACLU has long warned about the potential dangers of fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, excessive secrecy, troubling private-sector and military roles and a bent toward collection of information about innocent activities and data mining.

The Washington Post on Monday reported how, nine years after 9/11, U.S. state and local law enforcement are collecting, storing and sharing with federal agencies vast amounts of information about American citizens’ First Amendment-protected activities, often when there is no accusation, evidence or even suspicion of unlawful activity. The article included information about the Tennessee Fusion Center.

“The Fusion Center’s tracking of protected First Amendment activity raises profound civil liberties concerns regarding individual privacy, freedom of speech and religious freedom. We need only look back at our history to be reminded that domestic surveillance is unacceptable. The Tennessee Fusion Center’s classification of the ACLU letter as suspicious raises the specter that the government is once again tracking innocent Americans who are merely exercising the rights integral to a democratic society, returning us to a dangerous chapter in our country’s history,” Weinberg continued.

The Tennessee fusion center’s map can be found here: http://tnfusion.globalincidentmap.com/home.php

The ACLU of Tennessee’s holiday letter to school superintendents can be found here: http://www.aclu-tn.org/pdfs/Superintendent_letter_holidays.pdf

To learn more about the ACLU’s work on domestic intelligence gathering, go to: www.aclu.org/spy-files

  • Annis

    the ACLU never fails to amuse. Jews have a ceremony on the White House lawn where the POTUS and other officials gather to light a monorah. Not one peep from the ACLU. Try putting baby Jesus on the White House lawn and inviting the pres to attend and see what happens. Some people in this nation are blind to what is being done to them.

  • Annis

    Shouldn’t Israel be the only country that must deal with Muslim terrorism? How come that stuff has come to our shores. Diversity means that we must deal with the interests of every race over our own interests and the interests of America.

    Its not about whether a republican or a democrat gets into office, its about whether an American patriot gets into office vs a Mexican patriot or perhaps a Zionist.

    Thanks to diversity we’re also having to dole out billions of dollars in the African farmer scam which Obama signed into law. Something to think about.

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