David Cole is the National Legal Director of the ACLU and the Honorable George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center. His most recent book is Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law. (January 2017)


After Dallas

A prayer vigil following the shooting of five police officers, Dallas, Texas, July 8, 2016

It is the “war” on crime itself that is most to blame. More than any other nation in the world, we turn to the state-sanctioned compulsion of the criminal justice system to “solve” social problems. Our “first responders” are too often the police, bearing handcuffs and guns rather than public assistance or life support.

The Terror of Our Guns

An AR-15 rifle, an assault weapon similar to the one used by Omar Mateen in the June 12 shooting in Orlando, on display at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016

The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture

by Pamela Haag

Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights

by Robert J. Spitzer
The long tradition of gun regulations almost certainly means that the Supreme Court will not construe the Second Amendment to invalidate most gun laws on the books today, but that simply leaves the matter to the political process, where the NRA is plainly winning. If history is any guide, it will succeed in thwarting any new gun control initiative prompted by the Orlando massacre.


What James Comey Did

A Trump supporter at a campaign rally in Golden, Colorado, October 2016
Whatever else one might say about the just-concluded 2016 presidential election, one thing is certain: FBI Director James Comey played an outsized and exceptionally inappropriate part. His highly prejudicial announcement on October 28, just eleven days before the election, that he had reopened an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server ensured that the final critical days of the campaign were taken up with innuendos and suppositions set off by his action.

How Voting Rights Are Being Rigged

Voters waiting in line to cast early ballots, Cleveland, Ohio, November 2012

Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America

by Ari Berman

The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy

by Zachary Roth
The United States has long been a democracy divided by race. We are committed in theory to the principle of “one person, one vote,” but in practice our nation has exploited and tolerated deep, structural racial oppression, from slavery to Jim Crow to today’s racial profiling, residential and educational segregation, and red-lining.

The Drone Presidency

Anti-drone graffiti in Sanaa, Yemen, November 2013

Drone: Remote Control Warfare

by Hugh Gusterson

The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program

by Jeremy Scahill and the staff of The Intercept
Obama has now been at war longer than any other American president, and has overseen the use of military force in seven countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. In the latter four countries, virtually all the force has come in the form of unmanned drones executing suspected terrorists said to be linked to al-Qaeda or its “associated forces.” That an antiwar president has found the drone so tempting ought to be a warning sign.


Five Questions for Jeff Sessions

Senator Jeff Sessions, with Senators John Cornyn and Mark Pryor, July 25, 2006

As a matter of longstanding policy, the ACLU does not take positions supporting or opposing nominees for office, and as a result it rarely testifies in confirmation hearings. But we are sufficiently concerned about Sessions’s record that we have elected to depart from our usual practice and speak out—not to oppose the nomination, but to insist that the many questions about Sessions’s record must be answered before the Senate votes on his nomination for attorney general.

The Way to Stop Trump

Senator John McCain (right) with fellow senators Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, and Scott Brown, introducing legislation to refine the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, Washington, DC, March 10, 2011

Will Trump be able to put in place all the worst ideas he tossed out so cavalierly on the campaign trail? Building a wall; banning and deporting Muslims; ending Obamacare; reneging on climate change treaty responsibilities; expanding libel law; criminalizing abortion; jailing his political opponents; supporting aggressive stop-and-frisk policing; reviving mass surveillance and torture? Whether Trump will actually try to implement his proposed plans, and more importantly, whether he will succeed if he does try, lies as much in our hands as in his.

Comey Breaks the Rules

FBI director James Comey, Washington, DC, July 7, 2016

FBI director James Comey prides himself on being independent. But “independence” doesn’t excuse not following the rules. By elevating his own concerns about his personal reputation above the rules, Comey will forever be remembered as the FBI director who abused the power of his office to interfere in an imminent presidential election.

Police Injustice: How the Court Fails

Though it has just concluded a term in which its rulings have advanced the cause of justice, the Supreme Court continues to approach criminal justice cases without confronting the reality of race-based policing, as in the decision issued in the second-to-last week of the term, Utah v. Strife. As a result, the rules it promulgates too often exacerbate rather than curtail discriminatory law enforcement.