The A.C.L.U finds itself once more at a crossroads between its commitment to reversing a climate of fear and reaction and its hopes to operate freely within it: The group made the promise not to employ people it knew to be on similar terrorism lists so that it could continue participating in a program that allows federal employees to make charitable contributions through payroll deductions. That promise, several members of the A.C.L.U. board said, is at odds with the group's core principles and calls to mind an episode in 1940, when the board passed a resolution purging its staff of people who supported communism. With that history in mind, A.C.L.U. officials said, they had made the commitment in name only and did not intend to consult the lists. "We oppose 'no fly' lists," said Michael Meyers, a member of the group's executive committee. "Now we have a 'no hire' list that we've signed onto. We're in the midst of an organizational cultural crisis of enormous size." The promise and related subjects were discussed at a contentious, all-day board meeting in San Francisco on July 9, and a motion to rescind the promise was overwhelmingly rejected by a voice vote. A.C.L.U. officials said the debate would continue. Anthony D. Romero, the group's executive director, said that the promise had not affected any employment decision by the group and that he had not reviewed the lists. "I've printed them out," he said. "I've never consulted them." In the "no fly" suit, the A.C.L.U. said that the name of one of its staff lawyers, a man of Middle Eastern descent, mistakenly appears on government security lists. Mr. Romero said he signed a certification in January that the group "does not knowingly employ individuals or contribute funds to organizations found on" lists created by the federal government, the United Nations and the European Union. The certification referred specifically to three lists maintained by the Justice, State and Treasury Departments, including one called for by the Patriot Act, the antiterrorism law that the group has often criticized. The certification has been required since October of all groups that participate in the Combined Federal Campaign, a charity drive for federal employees and military personnel...Mr. Romero defended his decision to sign the certification but said he was seeking clarification from the government about the obligations it entails. He said that the language of the certification required knowingly employing someone named on the lists, and that he had taken care not to know the listed names. "No amount of money is worth violating our principles," he said. "We would never terminate or kick off board members or staff members because of their associational rights. We've made those mistakes in the past." ...Robert B. Remar, a member of the executive committee who said he supported Mr. Romero, said the group should take prompt action given new information about the government's position that the certification requires diligent compliance. "We either ought to litigate the legality of that or give the money back," he said. "I don't think the A.C.L.U. should be in the business of checking names on these lists." Stan Furman, another board member, agreed. "It smacks of blacklists," he said. "We've seen that the government under Ashcroft has made numerous lists of 'terrorist organizations' that in my opinion aren't really terrorist organizations.'' Amen.


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