1918 March 6

Military Burglarizes Civil Liberties Bureau Office

 

Officers with the Military Intelligence Section of the Army on this day burglarized the office of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) in New York City and stole some of its documents documents. By early 1918, the federal government had concluded that the NCLB was a threat to the war effort and possibly in violation of the Espionage Act because of its assistance to young men seeking conscientious objector status and its defense of the free speech rights of war critics.

The Justice Department then raided the NCLB offices on August 30, 1918, and seized all of its files. For several weeks it appeared likely that the top officials of the organization, including Roger Baldwin, would be arrested and prosecuted under the Espionage Act. That did not happen, although the reasons why are not clear.

On January 19, 1920, Baldwin helped reorganize the National Civil Liberties Bureau in the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and he served as its executive director for the next thirty years, establishing himself as the foremost advocate of free speech and civil liberties in the country.

Learn more: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

And more: Paul Murphy, World War I and the Origin of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

Watch Traveling Hopefully, a documentary on Roger Baldwinhttp://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

Learn more about the ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/

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