In its first year in office, the Carter administration has performed erratically, and in some cases disastrously, on protecting the civil liberties of Americans, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
While giving the administration "generally good" marks on its actions in race and sex discriminiation the ACLU criticized its record on civil liberties in the criminal justice system, the national security arena and military and veterans issues.
And on the abortion issue, the private watchdog agency said the administration "has demonstrated outright, Hostility to civil liberties." The conclusions are contained in a 36-page report to be released today on the administration's record in its first year.
The report discovered two major reasons for the administration's uncertain record on civil liberties.
The first is a "let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may" attitude that the report suggests relegates concern for civil liberties to a secondary status.
The second is the Congress "which has amply demonstrated its own indifference or outright hostility . . . to a wide range if civil liberties issues such as abortion, racial equality, military and veteran's rights, criminal law reform and many others" according to the report.
The ACLU's sharpest criticisms are directed at Carter's handling of the tension between effective intelligence operations and the constitutional guarantees of freedom form unwarranted surveillance that complicate intelligence-gathering in the United states.
Nothing Carter's campaign and inaugural pledges of open foreign policy-making and new and tigghter standards for the Centeral Intelligence Agency, the report said he "made a virtual aboutface" in the early days of the administration.
The List of actions the ACLU sees as Carter sins on national security is long: an effort to persuade The Washington Post not to print an article about secret CIA payments to Jordan's King Hussein: a draft executive order on national security information that would pewrmit agencies to obtain "secrecy agreements" from employes: a proposal to permit wiretapping of American without a judicial finding of criminial activity.
"We are particularly disappointed by Carter's failure to keep his campaign promises on the intelligence community." said John Shattucka, director of ACLU's Washington office, in a telephone interview. Shattuck said Carter has demonstrated a tendency to first take a strong civil liberties stand, then "to yield to the demands of the intelligency community."
The administration fares little better in the area of criminal law in ACLU's analysis. It criticizes Attorney General Griffin B. Bell's support of a codification of federal law that contains, it says, an overbroad conspiracy law, "damaging" community standards for obscenity, federal wiretapping, and the death penalty.
The report also scored a Carter Justice Department argument before the Supreme Court in April that warrantless searches should not be presumed illegal.
"In sum," the report concludes, "the Carter administration has been a disappointment when measured against the expectations it aroused."