Nadine Strossen has written, lectured, and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties, and international human rights. From 1991 through 2008 she served as president of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Professor Strossen retains leadership positions with the ACLU as a member of its National Advisory Council and Co-Chair of its Campaign for the Future.
The National Law Journal has twice named Professor Strossen one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” In 1996, Working Woman Magazine listed her among the “350 Women Who Changed the World 1976–1996.” In 1997, Upside Magazine included her in the “Elite 100: 100 Executives Leading The Digital Revolution.” In 1998, Vanity Fair Magazine included Professor Strossen in “America’s 200 Most Influential Women.” In 1999, Ladies’ Home Journal included her in “America’s 100 Most Important Women.” In 2005, Professor Strossen was honored by the University of Tulsa College of Law and the Tulsa Law Review, which made her scholarly work the subject of their Fifth Annual Legal Scholarship Symposium titled “Nadine Strossen: Scholar as Activist.”
Professor Strossen’s writings have been published in many scholarly and general interest publications (more than 250 published works). Her book, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights (Scribner, 1995), was named by The New York Times as a “Notable Book” of 1995 and was republished in 2000 by NYU Press, with a new introduction by the author. Her coauthored book, Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (NYU Press, 1995), was named an “outstanding book” by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.
Professor Strossen graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College (1972) and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1975), where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before becoming a law professor, she practiced law for nine years in Minneapolis (her hometown) and New York City.
Question: Has the government become more transparent since 9/11?
Nadine Strossen: Well, the post 09/11 issues are obviously profound and rather than going into the details of specific issues, I would say you have raised one of the overarching issues, which is government secrecy and government accountability. Secrecy was a problem with the Bush administration even before the terrorist attacks. It already had cut back on Freedom of Information Act and transparency in many ways and the silver lining to that cloud is that recently Congress did pass and the President did sign legislation to bolster protection for…to bolster the enforceability of the Freedom of Information Act although stay tuned…the President has taken other action that apparently is pulling the teeth out from that law. So, definitely, it has got to be a major priority, not only for the next administration, but I really, really have to stress, Congress' responsibility for all of this. Much as any President might want to exercise dictatorial powers that is not the way our system works, as I have to keep reminding my Liberal friends who love to demonize George Bush and before our current Attorney General, John Ashcroft, was a real lightning rod, that they did not single handedly pass the USA Patriot Act. Laws do not get passed that way and some of the worst abuses have been committed with Congress, by Congress, not just by executive order or Congress has been too lackluster in countering the President's abuses of power, even and I say this to my Democratic friends, even under Democratic leadership. Why has Congress still not restored habeas corpus? Why has Congress not passed legislation to end the military commissions that Bush created with his executive order? Why has Congress not passed legislation to shut down the Guantanamo facility? Why is Congress now moving toward immunity for the telephone companies that violate our privacy? So, nothing is going to change overnight just by having a new President, but what I would hope for is that the executive branch and/or the legislative branch of government will really enforce the rule of law that there will be oversight by Congress, meaning oversight, for what the administration is doing, not just accepting and what any administration is doing in the name of the War on Terror, not just accepting assertions that we need this power in order to keep America safe…no, you don’t have to go into…you don’t have to reveal secrets of individual cases, but just on a statistical basis, demonstrate that the existing powers and for example the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, have not been effective or sufficient in particular cases and make the case rather than just rolling over and rubber stamping whatever power grab the President is asking for.
Recorded On: 2/14/08