The ACLU's Man From the FBI

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, October 12, 2006

The American Civil Liberties Union, often viewed as a bastion of liberalism, has not been reluctant to work with conservatives and libertarians or take up controversial causes. So how odd is it for the ACLU to hire a former FBI agent as a policy counsel?

In the case of Michael German , probably not as strange as one might think.

German is the FBI agent -- an undercover specialist who once infiltrated a white supremacist group of skinheads -- who resigned in 2004 after charging that the agency retaliated against him for complaining about a botched anti-terrorism investigation. The Justice Department's inspector general later basically substantiated his claim.

"I am convinced that they are on the right side of all the issues that are important now for national security," German said in an interview about joining the ACLU.

He said Bush administration policies allowing warrantless wiretapping and internments without trials, as well as the use of torture in interrogations of terrorism suspects, are ineffective and can worsen national security.

"As an FBI agent, I was sworn to protect the Constitution, and I still am," German said.

Caroline Fredrickson , director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, said German will be important because he "has real inside knowledge of how the FBI operates" and "what actually works to find a terrorist." His expertise, she said, will "help balance the claims of people who want to limit the right of privacy."

She noted that the ACLU has worked with former House member Robert L. Barr Jr. (R-Ga.) on privacy issues and changes in the USA Patriot Act, as well as with others on the right.

"We are principled, not partisan," she said.

Lobby Firm Boosts Education Expertise

Education practices are among the hot lobbying and consulting specialties in town, and the pending reauthorization next year of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind legislation, has some shops bulking up their education expertise.

One such company is B&D Consulting , the lobbying and consulting affiliate of Baker & Daniels law firm. B&D Consulting has hired two senior education specialists: Rene Islas , most recently chief of staff in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the Department of Education, and Mary Jo Dare , assistant superintendent for academic affairs for Indianapolis public schools.

Islas and Dare will be involved in policy development, lobbying and advising school systems on compliance.

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