ACLU of Massachusetts Launches Report on Civil Liberties Violations in Massachusetts

May 13, 2004 12:00 am

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BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today released a 50-page report assessing the impact of the methods being used to fight terrorism on the well-being of Massachusetts, its institutions and residents.

“MASS IMPACT: the Domestic War Against Terrorism — Are We on the Right Track?” surveys the changing civil liberties landscape and focuses on how those institutions and industries that give Massachusetts its national and international reputation have been harmed by the post 9/11 climate and restrictive measures.

“As a society, we want to keep our country both safe and free,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “But this report shows that even in Massachusetts – the nation’s historic ‘cradle of liberty’ – civil liberties are under threat in ways that don’t necessarily make us more secure.”

MASS IMPACT surveys the changing civil liberties landscape in Massachusetts, focusing on violations of privacy, chilling of dissent, and ethnic and religious profiling. It assesses the impact of these measures on key sectors of the Massachusetts economy: our hospitals and research labs, our high tech industry, and our schools and universities.

“The institutions and industries that give Massachusetts its international reputation as a center of science and learning are being undermined by practices that violate privacy, chill dissent, and target people based on their ethnicity or religion,” said Rose. “Both our economy and the general well-being of the Commonwealth are being affected by post-9/11 measures, and yet the full impact of these measures are rarely part of the public debate.”

The report also presents personal stories of some of those whose lives have been affected. Among those featured in MASS IMPACT are:

  • Lexington High School students whose decision to participate in an anti-war walkout attracted FBI attention;
  • Elderly birdwatchers in western Massachusetts who have been repeatedly viewed with suspicion and harassed by police;
  • Visitors whose trips to Massachusetts for training programs or research turned into nightmares;
  • Men and women who have been subjected to ethnic and religious profiling by state troopers, local police, airport security, and bank officials;
  • University of Massachusetts professor whose published article led to a call on the Massachusetts TIPS line that brought state troopers to her door.

“By including personal stories in the report, we hope to give a human face to the public debate about civil liberties here in Massachusetts,” said Rose. “And for every person who was willing to speak out, there are many others who are too fearful to have their names used and their experiences made public.”

To date, 43 communities in Massachusetts have passed resolutions since 9/11 in support of civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. An additional 17 communities have resolution campaigns underway.

The report is online at

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