The national groups accuse the federal agencies of illegally withholding information on the government’s practice of excluding prominent foreign intellectuals based on their political views.
According to the complaint, the U.S. government appears to be invoking immigration laws and section 411 of the Patriot Act, which permits the exclusion of prominent individuals who have used their positions to endorse or espouse terrorism. However the individuals named in the complaint are known for their anti-terrorist stands. The complaint cites the experiences of several foreign scholars, including the Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan. “Our concern about academic freedom extends beyond the rights that are assured on our college and university campuses,” said Jane Buck, president of the AAUP. “We believe that the people of this country should be able to hear or read ideas from any speaker or writer without our government’s restricting our access to a full range of perspectives. Indeed, the government of a free people is obliged to guarantee such access.” Ramadan had accepted a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame, when his visa was revoked. The AAUP invited him to address its June 2005 annual meeting but, lacking a visa, Ramadan was unable to attend the meeting. Instead, AAUP members heard Ramadan via a video and telephone hook-up from Geneva. The AAUP and the other national groups bringing this complaint seek to contribute to public understanding about the use of this controversial section of the Patriot Act. As it is not currently U.S. policy to exclude individuals due to their political views, it is in the public interest to inquire whether parts of the Patriot Act are being misused to stifle political debate.