In Defense of Freedom (IDF) is a network of groups and individuals united in the common belief that the U.S. government has undermined the civil liberties of Americans in the post-9/11 era. More than 150 organizations, 300 law professors, and 40 computer scientists formally endorsed IDF’s founding document, which was drafted at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, DC offices on September 15, 2001.
The original 10-point manifesto, which was distributed to the media during a September 20, 2001 press conference, advised American political leaders and civilians alike “not to erode the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the American way of life”; to “reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty”; to “resist efforts to target people because of their race, religion, ethnic background or appearance, including immigrants in general, Arab Americans and Muslims”; to affirm the right of peaceful dissent, protected by the First Amendment, now, when it is most at risk”; and to “applaud our political leaders in the days ahead who have the courage to say that our freedoms should not be limited.”
Since its founding, IDF has released a number of additional statements and letters echoing and amplifying those initial declarations. On October 29, 2001, for example, the coalition filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice, demanding that government officials end the practice of secret detentions and reveal the identities of everyone who had been arrested or taken into custody in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. According to IDF, many detainees were suffering from “deprivations of fundamental due process, including imprisonment without probable cause, interference with the right to counsel, and threats of serious bodily injury.”
A chief area of concern to IDF was the authority given to the FBI in 2002 to search through electronic databases for evidence of future terrorist plots. In a June 2002 letter to the U.S. Congress United Committee on the Judiciary, individual IDF-affiliated signatories charged that the new surveillance procedures constituted domestic spying and were in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments. “We are also concerned,” the letter stated, “that the changes authorize unchecked surveillance of lawful religious and political activity, and that such surveillance will be targeted against Arab-Americans, Muslim, and immigrants among others.” Signers of the letter included Nan Aron, Julian Bond, Kit Gage, Morton Halperin, and Ralph Neas.
On October 4, 2004, IDF sent a letter asking members of Congress to ensure the protection of Americans’ civil liberties as the government began implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Report. The letter advocated the creation of a “mechanism for individuals or groups to file civil or criminal complaints against domestic intelligence-gathering agencies for alleged abuse of privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties.” It also expressed opposition to the creation of a national identification system and the profiling of individuals or groups based on race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation.
Among IDF’s many organizational members are: Action LA; Alliance For Justice; the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; the American Civil Liberties Union; the American Friends Service Committee; the American Immigration Lawyers Association; the American Library Association; the American Muslim Alliance; the American Muslim Council; Americans for Democratic Action; Amnesty International; the Arab American Institute; the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Center for Economic and Social Rights; the Council on American-Islamic Relations; the Electronic Privacy Information Center; Human Rights Watch; the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights; MoveOn; the Muslim Public Affairs Council; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom; the National Council of Churches; the National Council of La Raza; the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild; the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund; People for the American Way; Physicians for Human Rights; the Sentencing Project; USAction; the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and the World Organization Against Torture.