The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a national civil rights organization founded in 1974, today joined other groups filing a friend of the court brief in support of the ACLUs legal challenge to the National Security Agency’s warrantless domestic surveillance program (American Civil Liberties Union v. National Security Agency/Central Security Service (E.D. Mich. 2006).
AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung made the following statement:
We are concerned that the President’s reliance on vague and unchecked war powers is the same purported basis that resulted in one of the most shameful chapters of our nations history: the unlawful incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.
Asian Americans have faced injustice when executive power is exercised in secrecy and insulated from the checks and balances of our democracy. The wartime internment of Japanese Americans was followed in the 1950s by the anti-communist witchhunts of the McCarthy era, resulting in the FBI surveillance and harassment of thousands of Chinese Americans suspected of dual loyalties. More recently, after September 11, the domestic government spying on South Asians and Muslims led to the arrest and indefinite detention of thousands of immigrants with no connections to terrorism. The secret wiretapping program will only lead to a greater distrust of government in the Asian American community, which has already experienced the devastating effects of post-September 11 racial and ethnic profiling.
This record of governmental targeting of groups and individuals, based on political considerations often combined with race or national origin, is a history that cannot be forgotten in the current consideration of NSA’s assertion of unchecked governmental powers. AALDEF and other advocacy organizations are particularly concerned that their activities in support of Muslim groups and individuals will make them subjects of warrantless wiretaps. The NSA’s domestic surveillance program clearly has a chilling effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights on AALDEF and the other amici organizations, and it must end.