Patriots Gather for Media Bypass Anniversary Celebration in Evansville, Ind.

A proposed coalition

Rather than take issue with these statements, Krull again sought common ground, expressing his view that "we need to have a fundamental debate in this country now about do we want to be an empire or do we want to be a republic."

The discussion turned to the need to build bridges between the left and the right to combat the erosion of civil liberties. "We need those who love liberty on the left and the right to join together," said Key.

Krull joked that the right-wing extremists shouldn't count on too much help from the left. "As someone who has now served as the leader of the ICLU for five years," he said, "I can tell you ... if you lock two ICLU members in a room for an hour they will emerge having formed three factions. These folks can't agree on anything." But he went on, more seriously, to endorse the idea of forming a "coalition" that would include "a lot of people, like the folks in this room, like my members."

It remains to be seen whether Krull's members will share his enthusiasm for such a coalition. But when he was interviewed by the Intelligence Report about his participation at the Media Bypass convention, Krull was unapologetic. "[H]ow in the heck do you think you will ever change these people's minds if you don't engage with them?" he asked.

Krull, who plans to step down from his ICLU post at the end of 2003, said he attended the conference for a simple reason: "I was invited, and basically we go out and talk to anyone who issues an invitation."

In Krull's view, communing with the far right is part of "what the ACLU has been trying to do, reach out to people who were not sensitive to our message in the past." (It is important to note that state chapters of the ACLU have a high degree of autonomy. Executive directors like Krull do not have to receive approval from the national office before deciding who to reach out to.)

Krull told the Intelligence Report that he was unaware of the long histories of racial activism on the part of many participants, including his friend Temple, and said that he had not read Media Bypass, despite his contributions to the magazine.

"I don't do background checks on people," he said. "That is what [U.S. Attorney General John] Ashcroft does." And he added, that is what the Intelligence Report does as well.

Was Krull offended by the anti-Semitic materials at the convention? "[T]here was some stuff that I probably found offensive," he said, "although in fairness some of the stuff I had on church/state separation they found offensive."

Did he worry that his participation lent legitimacy to the extremist views of Media Bypass? "No," Krull said, noting that while they came together in their opinions of the Patriot Act, he had disagreements with the other participants on "church/state issues" and "most of the other things that the ACLU stands for."