Assaults on Civil Liberties

Few American values are more important than protection of civil liberties and civil rights. These are not quite the same. Both "rights" and "liberties" appear in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Though they are sometimes used interchangeably, and sometimes the areas between them blur, they refer to different kinds of guaranteed protections.

Civil liberties offer protections against government actions. The First Amendment guarantees, among other things, that U.S. citizens may practice whatever religion they please. Government cannot interfere in an individual's freedom of worship. Amendment I gives the individual "liberty" from the actions of the government. Civil rights are positive actions of government takes to create equal conditions for all Americans.

This page focuses on actions and statements of Trump and his administration that threaten civil liberties.

See also Attempts to Discredit Media and Censorship

Timeline


Analysis

Within the first two weeks of Trump's presidency, he and his administration demonstrated low tolerance for dissent in and outside of the government. He fired the acting attorney general who would not defend his controversial immigration order. Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, told career diplomats to  “either get with the program or they can go.” His chief strategist, the white nationalist Steve Bannon, also labeled the news media as an “opposition party” that should “keep its mouth shut.”

Civil libertarians are alarmed. “The whole thing is scary," David Boaz of the Cato Institute told the Washington Post. "They have no appreciation for the Constitution, much less the unwritten norms of liberal democracy.” (Source: Washington Post)