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Byline: Naftali Bendavid
WASHINGTON _ Membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and similar groups has soared since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an increase that is especially noteworthy because the ACLU appears to be making significant headway among conservatives, who have traditionally despised the organization.
The ACLU has signed up such prominent conservatives as former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), a firebrand whom liberals loved to hate when he was in Congress. It has formed lobbying alliances with right-leaning groups from the American Conservative Union to the Eagle Forum to Americans for Tax Reform.
"You name it, we've gone into bed with them," said ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield.
While it is impossible to know for sure, ACLU leaders and conservatives believe a major portion of the 100,000 members who have joined since the Sept. 11 attacks have come from conservative ranks. The dramatic expansion has brought the ACLU's membership to 400,000, by far the largest in the group's 80-year history.
The increase suggests that despite the war on terrorism, many Americans remain deeply troubled by the potential for the federal government overreaching that is embodied in such antiterrorism measures as the USA PATRIOT Act, …