ACLU: Protest = Terrorism. Me: ACLU = Punk’d.

The American Civil Liberties Union would very much like for you to be hysterically outraged at the Department of Defense, who – according to the ACLU – is “teach[ing] its personnel that free expression in the form of protests should be regarded as ‘low level terrorism'”.

The basis for this “egregious insult to constitutional values”? A “Level 1 Antiterrorism training course” that is “fulfilled through web-based instruction”.

Sound familiar? It should.

I first wrote about the Level 1 Antiterrorism certification back in 2007, when I encouraged readers to go get certified:

Here’s the deal with the ACLU’s accusation: they haven’t actually seen the training in question. All they have is an alleged screenshot:

Here’s where this gets interesting, though. That looks nothing like the current DoD Level 1 Anti-Terrorism training exam. Not even close. Radio buttons? No freaking way. This is what an actual question on the current training program looks like:

You click whichever answer you think is correct. (In this case, the correct answer is “A restaurant concession on base”, FYI.)

Furthermore, I’ve just sat through the current anti-terrorism training, and the “low level terrorism” question the ACLU quotes never appears. In fact, the mentions of protest are few and far between; in addition to the above question, the only mentions are as background:

For complete disclosure, “domestic terrorist” groups like ALF and ELF are mentioned exactly once, undoubtedly to the dismay of the ACLU:

So, my gut feeling here is that the ACLU has been “played” by someone with an anti-government agenda, who told the ACLU “what they wanted to hear”, and the ACLU weren’t smart enough to bother to try and confirm or validate the information before going ballistic. It wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last.

If you don’t believe me, by the way, feel free to go take the training yourself. It prompts you for your name and the last four digits of your Social Security Number; these need not be real or valid. The course takes about an hour to complete, and I don’t think you can actually fail, though I could be wrong there. There is nothing earth-shattering in the training, which is basically a large dose of basic common sense topped off with a small but probably healthy dose of post-9/11 paranoia.

In my opinion, the ACLU fulfill a valuable role, but their value – and their credibility – would be significantly enhanced if they bothered to expend even the slightest bit of effort to confirm, validate, or verify information they’re excitedly and breathlessly disseminating. There are lots of very real injustices in the world, guys; how about you deal with those, and leave the made-up ones to Fox News?

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Security | on June 12th, 2009| 4 Comments »

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  1. On 6/12/2009 at 4:17 pm Jimmy American Mohist Said:

    Pride comes before the fall. ACLU is too arrogant to fact-check its sources.

  2. On 6/12/2009 at 5:14 pm Nemo Said:

    It’s not the first time the ACLU has gotten outraged by something that was easily disprovable, and it’s not going to be the last. They’re evidently extremely receptive – too receptive, IMO – to things that reinforce their world view. Truthiness, and all that.

    I mean, seriously, the training really is available for anyone, anywhere in the world, to see, and everybody in all five branches of U.S. service, including the reserves, takes this training annually, as do many of their immediate relatives. Nobody in the ACLU knows even a member of the military they could approach for independent confirmation?

    I really do wonder who “fed” them this non-story, though. Who, and why.

  3. On 6/22/2009 at 1:11 pm ConcernedCitizen Said: isn’t a working link.

  4. On 6/22/2009 at 2:32 pm Chris Said:

    What I don’t understand is why it was a question in the first place, I think you’re missing the point of reporting it.