AP Misquote or ACLU Misstatement?

I wrote about the ACLU appearing to accept new 4th Amendment violations the other day. The key issue was over this statement, which originated from an AP article:

Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida, said the Miami initiative appears aimed at ensuring that people’s rights are not violated.

“What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

The point I was making is that it appears Mr. Simon is excusing the plans of the Miami cops because they are doing better at complying with the Constitution. As this is typically not the position of the ACLU, I also provided for the potential of a misquote with this line:

While I’m not at all surprised by another usurpation of our rights as American citizens, I am deeply upset (assuming the quotation above is correct) that an ACLU spokesperson has become an apologist for the police state.

It seems the official ACLU line is that Simon was misquoted by the AP. Below is the message we received from them this morning:

AP misquoted our Executive Director, Howard Simon, and ran a correction on the wire. Can you please clarify this for your readers? Thanks.

Here’s our response:

For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Contact:
Alessandra Soler Meetze at 305-576-2337 ext. 16.

ACLU Statement on Miami Shield Program

There is some confusion over the specifics of the “Miami Shield” Program. Reports differ as to whether the plan involves large squads of officers stopping everyone at a locale and then demanding people to produce identification. Although the Miami Police Department has claimed that “Miami Shield” will respect people’s right, much of its constitutionality will depend on how the program is implemented.

If police officers plan on stopping people and demanding identification without any reason to believe that there is criminal activity, that is unconstitutional.

When law enforcement stops people based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, that is always both more effective and consistent with constitutional principles.

Other post 9-11 law enforcement tactics such as randomly searching subway users in New York City or conducting mass pat-down searches of everyone entering the Raymond James Football Stadium in Tampa violate constitutional principles and are a waste of law enforcement resources.

We’ve asked for a link to or the wording of the retraction, but have not received a response, yet. I’m curious as to whether a mistake was made and the ACLU is trying to cover for it after the fact, or if the AP reporter got the quote wrong in the first place.

In an effort to keep our reporting fair and balanced (Bill O’Reilly should take some notes on this), we’ll try to provide all sides of the story here at HoT.

UPDATE: Suzette M. Laboy, Broadcast Editor for the AP of Florida sent me the following retraction they issued:

MIAMI (AP) – In a Nov. 28 story about the Miami Police Department’s new counterterrorism initiative, a police official discussing a hypothetical exercise said that officers might surround a bank building and check the identities of people entering and leaving. The story should have made clear that police will not be checking identification without cause.

Unfortunately, this does not clarify much. If it is an exercise (as opposed to a real terrorist incident), then any identity checking still would be done without cause.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the “hypothetical” that was presented by the AP as being told by the police. Oddly enough, Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez and police spokesman Angel Calzadilla are interchangeable:

Original version (Nov 28th): Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

Updated version (Nov 30th): As an example, uniformed and plainclothes officers might surround a bank building unannounced, contact the manager about ways to be vigilant against terrorists, and hand out leaflets in three languages to customers and people passing by, police spokesman Angel Calzadilla said.

MORE UPDATES by Stephen Gordon: The ACLU statement is now posted on their website.

Alessandra Soler Meetze of the FL ACLU sent this to us by e-mail:

The revised AP story is [linked here]. As you can see the story states — “[Calzadilla] said there would be no random checks of identification.” And it includes the correct quote from Simon.

It is interesting to note the change from:

“What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

to

“What we’re dealing with is officers on street patrol (making informed decisions on which individuals to stop), which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution,” Simon said. “We’ll have to see how it is implemented.”

With all of the oopsies (hopefully) out of the way, maybe we can get back to the real issue of combating the increasing usurpation of our civil liberties.

6 Comments
  1. Doesn’t anyone recall that Miami Police chief Timoney’s son was just arrested last month by the DEA for a $900,000 drug deal in New York? For all the press this story has received, I can’t believe any media sources have not even mentioned that coincidence. This looks like federal coercion or a desperate attempt to save face by Timoney.
    I live in SW Fla, Naples. If you recall, a few months after 9-11 a there was a terrorist scare when muslim medical students made sarcastic, threatening comments in a truck stop because they felt they were being harassed for their ethnic dress. They were stopped in Naples, under false charges of not paying a toll. Our county sheriff D Hunter charged they were terrorists even after their story checked out with the feds and the national media. As a coincidence, two of his assistants had just been convicted of numerous charges including cocaine trafficking, bribery, blackmail of a child abuser, abuses that had taken place over decades.

    [ed- here’s a link to that story. It’s an strange coincidence, surely]

  2. “Oh, yeah, sure I got my I.D. right here”
    “What?” “Oh left my Amerika work pass and papers at home.”
    “What do you mean I can’t pass…I thought…”
    “I need new additional papers now?”
    “Well, where do I go to apply?”
    “At the end of your…stick???”
    “I’m not quite sure I under-” POW!!!!