ACLU, AAUP, & Pen American Center v. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and Central Intelligence Agency ,)

On Thursday, November 10, 2005, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) joined as a plaintiff with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and PEN American Center in seeking the prompt release of records under a Freedom of Information Act request, filed in March 2005, from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security and the Central Intelligence Agency.  The plaintiffs allege in the complaint (.pdf) that the government has invoked section 411 of the Patriot Act, which permits the exclusion of prominent individuals who have used their positions to endorse or espouse terrorism, “to exclude and stigmatize prominent critics of U.S. foreign policy—individuals who may have never supported terrorism and in at least some cases have vocally opposed it.” The complaint continues:  “The exclusion of such individuals deprives Americans of the opportunity to engage in debate and dialogue with widely respected scholars and intellectuals and distorts public debate about matters of significant political importance.  In addition, the government's use of its visa power to limit the range of ideas American citizens are allowed to hear violates rights protected by the First Amendment.”  The non-citizen individual scholars named in the complaint are known for their anti-terrorist stands, including the Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan, and the prominent Nicaraguan scholar and former government official, Dora Maria Tellez, as well as a group of Cuban scholars who were scheduled to attend a conference, among others.   Read the AAUP press release .

Update: On January 20, 2006, the District Court ordered the State Department, the CIA, and two components within the Department of Homeland Security (the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services) to process the plaintiffs’ March 2005 FOIA request.  Subsequently, the Department of Justice and the CIA found no relevant records, and were dropped from the case.  In June, the court ordered each remaining defendant to produce an itemized index of each document withheld by the government and a justification for why it was withheld.  In exchange for receiving the Records and Statistical Information that the government was able to produce in response to the requests, the plaintiffs dismissed the FOIA case on January 22, 2007.  The dismissal does not prevent the plaintiffs from filing different FOIA requests if new information comes to light.