DETROIT (TDB) -- A former federal prosecutor serving as the independent monitor overseeing the Cincinnati Police Department's compliance with a racial-profiling settlement negotiated by the ACLU has entered the legal fray over President George Bush's NSA eavesdropping program as an ally of the ACLU.
Saul Green, a Michigan lawyer who served as the U.S. Attorney in Detroit under former Democratic President Bill Clinton, represents several civil-rights organizations. He filed a friend-of-the court brief that contends warrantless eavesdropping shreds the privacy rights of American citizens. He cited past scandals, including an FBI attempt to tape Dr. Martin Luther King discussing marital infidelities. Green said the FBI hoped that King would hear the tape and commit suicide.
His action in the NSA case does not directly involve his role as the court-appointed police monitor in Cincinnati -- he is working for the groups as private counsel. So far, Green's appearance as an ACLU ally in the spying case is not widely known outside the U.S. Courthouse in Cincinnati. It is unclear how Cincinnati officials and police may react. Some officers have chafed under the racial-profiling settlement, which ocurred after race riots in 2001. The new link between Green and the ACLU could be seen by some as a potential conflict of interest because he now is openly on the side of the civil liberties organization -- although in a separate matter.
In the spying matter, the ACLU won an order from a federal judge in Detroit last summer that declared the program unconstitutional. The Bush Administration challenged the ruling, saying it must eavesdrop on electronic communications to Americans that originate overseas as a measure to protect the nation against terrorists.
The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati this week scheduled arguments in the case for Jan. 31. (American Civil Liberties et al V., Natl Security Agcy et al, 06-2095.)
Green's clients include the NAACP, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Japanese American Citizens League, the League of United Latin American Citizens, United for Peace and Justice, the American Association of University Professors and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In his brief, Green said the groups have often been at odds with the government and ''their First Amendment activities have historically been the target of clandestine surveillance by the NSA, among other Executive Branch agencies." He said unrestricted government spying threatens the free flow of ideas and said history shows how such programs have been abused.
''Warrantless surveillance prompted the government to take actions that undermined the NAACP and its work. For example, an FBI memo submitted to President Dwight D. Eisenhower containing misstatements about communist influence on the NAACP reinforced the Presidents inclination to passivity on civil rights legislation,'' the brief said. "Journalists were spied on, as were Executive branch officials and their relatives. Even the entire congregation of the Unitarian Society of Cleveland was targeted after several churchgoers circulated a petition calling for the dissolution of the House Un-American Activities Committee."
Green noted that U.S. government agencies spied for decades without warrants. "Intelligence agencies continued to target groups based upon mere suspicion," he said, noting there was mp evidence the groups had engaged in illegal activities.