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ACLU Showcases Celebrities for Ad Campaign Criticizing Administration

By Nat Ives

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- New York

As the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks passed on Thursday and President Bush pressed for greater expansion of law enforcement powers, a new advertising campaign by the American Civil Liberties Union has been rolling out to oppose the proposals.

The ads, which indirectly criticize the Bush administration’s proposals as trampling on the the Bill of Rights without mentioning either the proposals or the president directly, have already hit a nerve.

“It is absolutely outrageous,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Department of Justice. “You have men and women who are sworn to uphold the Constitution who are literally putting their lives on the line to keep us safe and our lives intact, and the ACLU is making them out to be some sort of Gestapo-like organization.”

Feelings are bitter on both sides of the debate. Corallo accused the ACLU of trying to create an atmosphere of fear. The ACLU and its allies said the same about the Justice Department.

“The definition of ‘crisis’ has been changed and been made much more elastic,” said Richard Dreyfuss, the actor, who appears in one of the ads. “Criticism of the administration is not looked upon as allowable or appropriate, because we’re in a ‘crisis.”’

With a budget of $3 million, the campaign is consuming much of the $4.5 million the civil liberties union typically spends on advertising in a year. The decision to spend so much now reflects a belief that disaffection with the Bush administration and its policies is rising, and that opportunities to gain new support and members are growing along with it, said Anthony D. Romero, executive director at the group.

“It’s essential to talk to the American people now,” he said, “because there is a beginning of a debate and a dialogue at the grass roots.”

As an example, Romero said that some 160 communities around the country have adopted resolutions objecting to the measures the Bush administration pushed through in the fall of 2001, known as the USA Patriot Act. The new proposals would extend those measures and include provisions that were rejected the first time around, like wider powers to issue subpoenas without judicial oversight.

The black-and-white print ads in the new campaign are scheduled to run from September to December in magazines like Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. They were created by Benenson Janson in Studio City, Calif., the civil liberties union’s agency since July of last year.

Howard Benenson, president of Benenson Janson, said the large-type legend that starts each ad, “I am not an American,” is meant to be provocative, but that the message that follows is meant to have wide appeal.