1918 August 31

DOJ Raids National Civil Liberties Bureau Office, Seizes Records


With World War I still grinding on in Europe, Justice Department officials raided the office of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) in New York City and seized all of its records. The administration of President Woodrow Wilson targeted the group because of its criticisms of the administration’s suppression of dissent, violations of the rights of conscientious objectors, and attacks on radical labor unions during the war. Some NCLB publications had been banned from the mails in 1917, and Military Intelligence had been spying on the organization, and even burglarized its offices on March 6, 1918. After the raid, it appeared possible that the leaders of the NCLB, including director Roger Baldwin, might be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. For reasons that are unclear, no one was prosecuted.

On January 19, 1920, under Baldwin’s leadership, the NCLB was reorganized as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with Roger Baldwin as it Executive Director.

Read about the raid and the history of the ACLU: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Watch a documentary on Roger Baldwin, Traveling Hopefully: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ND_uY_KXGgY

Learn about the ACLU during times of national crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-defending-liberty-times-national-crisis

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