ACLU Is Ready To Sue Clinton If Her Administration Doesn't Protect Civil Liberties

The former secretary of state needs to do much better on immigration and national security, according to the ACLU.

Donald Trump has repeatedly shown through his stances that he cares very little about the Constitution. But his Democratic rival has some troubling positions on constitutional issues as well.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday released “The Clinton Memos,” a report detailing Hillary Clinton’s support for policies that may potentially violate constitutional principles, with a special focus on immigration and national security.

The 34-page report notes Clinton has been “a strong defender of Americans’ civil rights and liberties in most respects.” But it devotes the bulk of its findings to how her administration might treat immigrants and national security matters, calling for Clinton to re-evaluate her positions on those issues — or be prepared to face litigation from the civil liberties group if she wins the White House.

The ACLU, which is nonpartisan and isn’t taking sides in the election, released a similar but much more critical report on Donald Trump in July.

“If elected, Secretary Clinton can restore basic constitutional principles to the way our government conducts itself at home and abroad,” said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero in a statement accompanying the report. “With her strong track record on so many issues, we are asking Clinton to make much needed and doable changes to immigration and national security programs that would not only make our country better and safer, but put the values of fairness, equality, and due process of law at the fore of her administration.”

On immigration, the report called for Clinton to end the incarceration of undocumented immigrant families, specifically those in detention centers controlled by for-profit prison corporations. The ACLU focused on the front and the back end of the detention process: the “large-scale, often militarized” raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to round up undocumented immigrants — which many say violate the Fourth Amendment — and the normalized practice of holding immigrants for extensive periods without a hearing.

On national security, the report called out Clinton’s support for “targeted-killing” — or drone strikes — that the ACLU and many other organizations say violate international law and the constitutional guarantees of due process and freedom from unreasonable seizures. The organization said targeted killings need to end, and the U.S. needs better record-keeping of how many civilians it kills extrajudicially ― all with the goal of establishing accountability to the public and the rest of the world. The report said if Clinton does not change course, “her presidency will further entrench the dangerous ‘global war’ paradigm initiated under President Bush and expanded under President Obama.”

Additionally, “The Clinton Memos” calls for the Democratic nominee to discontinue many of the surveillance tactics employed by the National Security Agency and other intelligence bodies. These methods, which include electronic monitoring of civilians, can be discriminatory and amount to illegal government searches forbidden by the Fourth Amendment. The ACLU called on Clinton to ensure Muslim Americans are not singled out by counter-terrorism initiatives and that people’s freedoms are prioritized when the government strives for safety and security.

As a whole, the ACLU report can be read as an invitation for Clinton to lead the country differently if she’s elected. The Obama administration has received withering condemnation for deporting more people from the United States than any administration in the country’s history; and its drone killing program in the Middle East often finds the president at odds with progressive groups and some experts who say the program creates more terrorism

The Clinton campaign, for its part, has said Clinton will push legislative immigration reform within the first 100 days of office, but has yet to give a detailed description of how she will protect immigrant rights, according to the ACLU. She has not made similar commitments to reforming surveillance and targeted killing practices. 

But given Clinton’s own record as secretary of state and her ties to Obama, the ACLU has cause for concern.

“Clinton has the chance to make good on her stated vision of a country in which the most vulnerable are given a fair chance at the American dream,” Romero said. “The thousands of people of different backgrounds who come to our great nation in search of a better life deserve just that, and Secretary Clinton can and should make these modest reforms a reality.”