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Drone Use: Obama Administration Needs Rules, Transparency

22 Jun

The following op-ed was written by ACLU of Wisconsin’s Executive Director Chris Ahmuty and appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Another View, “Government Needs Rules, Transparency in Drone Use.”

The United States military and Central Intelligence Agency are using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists, including American citizens.  While President Obama’s top security adviser, John Brennan, finally acknowledged this practice in April, these extrajudicial killings are still shrouded in secrecy.   It is only possible to say with confidence that in recent months drones have been used to kill individuals who have been “nominated” for and placed on a secret “kill list” often with the personal involvement of President Obama.  The United States has used drones for this purpose in Iraq and Afghanistan, where our country has been at war, and in Pakistan and Yemen, where we are not officially at war.  American citizens have been among those targeted and among those who are among the collateral damage of such operations.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called for greater transparency from the Obama administration.  A good start would be for the Obama administration to release the Justice Department memos related to this secret process, including any that purport to explain the legal authority for the extrajudicial killing of American terrorism suspects.

Drones already come in many sizes and appear to be a technological fix for some difficult operational and political issues in the war on terrorism.   Drones can be controlled from great distances, thereby protecting the lives of their operators, if not Afghan or Yemeni noncombatants; a fact Al Qaeda recruiters point out.   Drones may be more precise than conventional fighter attacks, thereby offering the opportunity to reduce the loss of innocent lives, but apparently sometimes President Obama makes exceptions to this goal.  Chillingly, drones kill and maim but don’t take prisoners, thereby reducing the pressure to examine our government’s policy of indefinite detention of some prisoners in the everlasting war on terrorism.

There are undoubtedly legitimate and legal uses for this technology.  But like other technologies, such as “enhanced interrogation methods”, use of global positioning systems to track an individual’s whereabouts 24/7, data mining of financial and other personal records and online activity, or even new full body scanning devices at the airport, drone technology does not absolve leaders in the federal executive branch, from their responsibility of using it in lawful ways that are consistent with our values.

When one examines this issue it is clear that drones have allowed targeted killings to become an important tactic in the war on terrorism without the public’s knowledge of basic information or the checks and balances our constitution requires.  Drones may have severely impacted Al Qaeda in the short term, but they may have also made more difficult a long term counterterrorism strategy utilizing America’s great strength – our belief that the rule of law and civil liberties will protect our families’ freedoms from government abuse.

Polls show that Americans as a whole, if not most ACLU members, support the use of drones for targeted killings by a wide margin.   The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to allow drones for law enforcement and perhaps military purposes in our country.  Hopefully the buzz you hear above your head at a cookout within the next few years will be a mosquito and not a drone.

Warrantless GPS Tracking is a Violation of Fourth Amendment Rights: SCOTUS Decision Cheered by Privacy Defenders

23 Jan

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that if police attach a Global Positioning System tracking device to a car, the Fourth Amendment requires that they get a warrant to do so. The decision, United States v. Jones, protects privacy rights against one intrusive way the police use GPS technology and answers a question the Wisconsin Supreme Court sidestepped in State v. Sveum in 2010. Read more about this privacy victory in the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

“Police should have probable cause that a crime has been or is likely to be committed before using GPS tracking technology,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “The ACLU of Wisconsin agrees that without a judge’s agreement, police use of warrantless GPS tracking would be a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. The details of our private lives are revealed by our movements. Allowing police the power to obtain information on the location of anyone’s car and movements, for any reason or for no reason at all, without a valid warrant, is unconstitutional.”

In February 2010, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in State of Wisconsin v. Sveum, urging the Court to hold that attaching a GPS device was a “search or seizure” requiring a warrant under the Wisconsin constitution as well as the Fourth Amendment. The brief warned that approving warrantless GPS could allow police to engage in fishing expeditions to obtain a detailed picture of someone’s personal associations by identifying the churches, bars, protests or doctor’s offices a person visited.

In its decision in July 2010, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sidestepped the question of whether there are any constitutional limits on police use of global positioning system devices to track people in their cars. Instead, the state’s high court decided that a court order obtained by the police satisfied the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Today’s unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically answers the question the Wisconsin courts left open: the Fourth Amendment protects privacy against intrusive GPS tracking.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Selling your DVDs and CDs in Madison? Police Want Your Photo and to Know What You’ve Been Watching

16 Sep

The Madison city council’s Public Safety Review Committee met on Wednesday to consider a change to the law governing the licenses of secondhand dealers. The ordinance change would create an electronic reporting system where secondhand dealers, such as used bookstores or pawn shops, would report daily to police what was sold and would include a digital picture of the person who brought in the items. The list includes things like jewelry and electronics but it also includes recorded materials such as CDs, DVDs and audiobooks.

Whenever a change to this law comes up, the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Madison Area Office pays attention. In 2007, a campus-area alder suggested that used book dealers report their book buy-backs to police after a rash of textbook thefts. Bookstores objected saying that the reporting would be burdensome and costly. Police said they needed more tools to fight crime. The idea of electronic reporting came back in 2009 when Madison police held a listening session with stakeholders and explained the need for modernization but also heard concerns about data security, cost and customer privacy.

This proposal is an example of how whenever the government has access to a list of what we read or what we watch or the websites we visit, the ACLU must respond. Remember how librarians fought back when the Patriot Act would have required them to offer our library records for inspection? They protected our right to read because it was a core privacy issue. Our choice to posses any expressive material, be it a book or a CD or a film on DVD, is something we may choose to keep private. Especially if that material is controversial.

Government inspection of lists of such materials, even after they have been sold to a secondhand dealer, can create a profile of an individual’s personal selection or possession of intellectual or entertainment choices. We have a First Amendment protected tradition in this country to allow people to pursue and exchange information anonymously, even if that information is controversial. The only exception to this is in the realm of child pornography, although in the surveillance culture of post-9/11 America, the government now labels some information sharing as suspicious activity. The infrastructure for intelligence gathering has grown exponentially in the past ten years and our government literally has more data than it knows what to do with despite the estimated 2,000 private companies it has hired to data mine all of the cell phone records, suspicious activity reports and other bits of surveillance it has gathered from innocent people in the homeland. Our government does not need another database to spy on our personal choices.

Also whenever the government imposes on the First Amendment or the privacy rights of individuals, it has the responsibility to prove a compelling justification for that imposition. Police say theft, particularly related to drug use, justifies the need for this database. But requiring secondhand dealers to maintain electronic records and digital photographs of media sales specific to sellers and turn those records over to police daily treats all customers as potential criminals without suspicion that any particular person has stolen the CDs, DVDs, audiobooks or other media. The best way to balance fighting crime and protecting privacy is through individualized investigations by police who obtain warrants to search dealers’ own records. Database hacking or fishing expeditions or through electronic lists of who sold what would become easier and no less unacceptable under this proposed ordinance change.

Madison residents should ask their Common Council Alder to support an amendment that exempts “audio tapes, compact discs, laser discs, records, videotapes, digital video discs, portable media players or other similar audio or audio-visual recording devices,” “computer games” and digital pictures of customers who sell them from the daily electronic reporting to local police. Such an amendment would allow secondhand dealers and the city to comply with state law without compromising innocent people’s rights to privacy and freedom to exchange expressive materials.

Read the proposed ordinance online.

Madison residents can find their city council representative’s contact information on the city’s website.

While thinking about controversial materials, remember that September 24 through October 1 is Banned Books Week. We take one week out of the year to acknowledge how the work to defend our right to privacy and our right to read happens 365 days a year. Join us in Madison for a Banned Books Week kick off happy hour at Mickey’s on Friday, September 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. We will co-host a reading of banned books at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee on Wednesday, September 28 with a reception starting at 6:30 p.m. Both events are free, but donations are welcome.

We Must Now Reclaim Our Liberties: Ten Years After 9/11

10 Sep

Ten years after the horrific events of September 11, 2001 the American people are right to remember and honor those who died in at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.  The ten-year mark of the 9/11 attacks also importantly provides an opportunity to reflect on the turbulent decade behind us, and to recommit ourselves to values that define our nation, including justice, due process, and the rule of law.

Nearly ten years ago on September 23, 2001, I wrote in the Journal Sentinel, “Americans, in and out of the Congress, will have to evaluate carefully, ‘anti-terrorism’ proposals that may have an impact on the civil liberties that protect our freedom.”   Much of the government’s response to the attacks against us was done without proper deliberation.  Much of the government’s response was initiated without the benefit of the 9/11 Commission’s investigation and report.  It is no wonder that we are still facing challenges, despite a “global war on terrorism” that seems to be an everywhere and forever war.

The records of the Bush and the Obama administrations reveal many actions that have undermined our ability to remain safe and free.  Congress has done no better.  Some in Congress are attempting to undermine the Constitution by giving the president a blank check for a worldwide, endless war.  This would be a clear abdication of Congress’s role in our system of checks and balances – the Constitution clearly gives only Congress the power to declare war.

Targeted killings in the name of our security continue without any way for us to know whether people our government kills are truly a threat to our country. Prisoners who have never had a trial are still held at Guantanamo.  Although evidence of torture and death at U.S.-run detention facilities like Abu Ghraib, Bagram and CIA “black sites” exists, no single victim of torture has had a day in court due to the “states secrets” privilege and immunity doctrines our government invokes to defend itself from being held accountable for these human rights abuses.

And, we need not look overseas to see how American freedoms are threatened in ways that may not make us safer, much less safe.

At the Mitchell Field, you get to choose between full-body scanners that reveal near-naked outlines of our bodies or an offensive pat-down by TSA workers. Phone companies are willing to hand over your call records to the government without warrants or suspicion of criminal activity of individuals. Taking pictures of landmarks is enough to make you the subject of a “suspicious activity report” in a terrorist behavior data base. Surveillance by the government has tracked racial minorities, religious groups, peace protesters, college students and journalists.

Government policies that target groups by race, ethnicity or religion are counterproductive and make us less safe.  Experienced intelligence and law-enforcement officials agree that profiling based on race, religion and ideology is ineffective, inefficient, and counter-productive.

This anniversary is a fitting time to remember and stirs deep emotion and concern among our fellow Americans.   This is entirely legitimate and to be expected ten years into a war. But, despite the passing of a decade and the changing of leadership in the White House and Congress, we continue to allow the fear of terrorism to cloud our political discourse.   We must have the courage to affirm what makes  America great.  What I wrote in 2001 is still valid: “Freedom is more than just a goal; it is the bulwark of our democracy and the spirit that lifts individuals and families in countless ways.  It makes us safer and stronger.”

- Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director, ACLU of Wisconsin

Read the report: A Call to Courage – Reclaiming Our Liberty Ten Years After 9/11 from the national American Civil Liberties Union

This opinion piece was also featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Crossroads on Sunday, September 11, 2011.

News roundup: Grothman not a fan of sex ed, medical marijuana in Berlin (WI), spying on abortion activists and more…

19 Feb

Here is some news you might have missed..

We got coverage on Milwaukee’s TMJ4 on the ACLU’s opposition to an effort by lawmakers to bar public disclosure of 911 calls. “The public deserves to get all the information with very limited exceptions,” said Christopher Ahmuty of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin. “Those exceptions should be done on the basis of a balancing test that’s in the current law now.”

Senator Glenn Grothman was a bit hit in the blogosphere when he said in a Cap Times interview that he didn’t approve of the comprehensive sex ed bill that’s headed to the Governor’s desk on Wednesday. It might have been his comments about how teasing feminine boys was normal at his high school that even got the attention of Perez Hilton. Note to all Wisconsin state legislators: bullying or discriminating against gay youth is NOT okay. (But it is okay to give the ACLU a shout out in Glee!)

Did you see the coverage of the medical marijuana advocacy event in Berlin, WI? Central Wisconsin folks asked if their medicine was legal yet. Another lobby day is scheduled at the Capitol on Wednesday. Contact IMMLY for details.

Madison city council alders are considering a parental responsibility law. The proposal is being pushed by the same folks who tried to keep kids inside earlier at last year’s curfew ordinance that the ACLU of Wisconsin helped to defeat. If you are a single mom who works three jobs to scrape by and your youngster gets a ticket for disorderly conduct at the bus transfer point, will you have time to go to court to deal with the fine in your name?

Speaking of Madisonians with limited income, we’ve been observing the housing issue around Shorewood Hills and the proposal to replace the nearly vacant Pyare Square building. Some residents of the affluent neighborhood complained about a large apartment complex that housed limited-income families, but developers tried to quell their fears by making the complex for seniors. Finally the whole project was scrapped due to the height of the building design. Whenever there are concerns about building affordable housing, our ears prick up mostly because of fights like what happened in South Milwaukee with the Lake Point Apartments.

Remember the dust up over anti-Hmong comments by a UW law professor? The dust hasn’t completely settled. Madison Hmong community leader is still asking questions about the Hmong studies program that was promised to be added to the university offerings.

The news broke that Homeland Security was working with Middleton police last year to spy on anti-abortion activists who were planning a big rally that would no doubt overwhelm the police resources. The news said that DHS investigated both prochoice and anti-abortion activists, but we haven’t heard from prochoicers about alleged probes. We’re a prochoice organization, but DHS can’t spy on activists. Period. Only when there is probable cause (i.e. evidence that’s more than a hunch that a crime will be committed) can an investigation legally be started. The feds admitted wrongly investigating the activists, but Middleton police aren’t turning over records and feds say they deleted copies of the assessment. Sorry Michele Malkin, we do care when government spies on First Amendment protected activity.

The ACLU’s Bill of Rights Celebration is tomorrow! Twitter fan? @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison will be live tweeting at the #BORC event! Follow us to hear more from blogger journalist @anamariecox!

News update: detention for immigrants an affront to justice, government spying and secrets update, and more

20 Mar

Voting Rights
Remember – you have until Monday to update your registration with the Statewide Voter Registration Database. With one of the biggest voter turnouts in recent history in November, this might not apply to you. But if you’ve moved since the last time you voted, contact your city clerk to make sure you’re ready to vote in the spring elections.

Immigration update: the other detainees
A recent AP article was written after a Freedom of Information Act letter was filed with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to get a snapshot of who was being detained in US immigrant jails.

The article points out that:
– the US has 32,000 people in detention for civil (not criminal) immigration violations
– 18,690 of those people have no other criminal conviction record; 400 of these people have been behind bars for more than a year. No convictions. Detained for over a year.
– 10,000 had been behind bars for over 31 days. Could you imagine being jailed for speeding and being behind bars for a month?
- 58% of immigrants went through their immigration hearings without an attorney
– electronic monitoring is cheaper than detention
– electronic monitoring is as effective as detention for people to show up to their hearings: 95-99%

The government is imprisoning immigrants without many of the rights criminals receive: no court-appointed attorney for indigent defendants, no standard habeas corpus, no protection from double jeopardy, no guarantee of a speedy trial. Anti-immigrant rhetoric says they are being detained because they broke the law. The bottom line is that we don’t even treat our citizen criminals this badly. On US soil, our laws and the Constitution should be for everyone. Read more about the ACLU’s work on immigrant rights.

Prisoner’s Rights and Rachel Maddow
Did anyone notice that Rachel Maddow’s speech at the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Bill of Rights Celebration got a shout out on the national ACLU Blog of Rights? Her story about her work with the ACLU and human rights in the prison system was just one of the fun tidbits she shared at the event. See the full video of her speech on the ACLU of Wisconsin You Tube channel.

Safe and Free: Rolling back the Ashcroft Doctrine and the Patriot Act
For those who are exhausted with frustration over how often the Bush administration said “no comment” when asked about their policies regarding torture, Guantanamo detainees and other human rights issues in the past eight years, the “Ashcroft Doctrine” may finally be challenged. Congress has introduced a state’s secrets bill that would restore appropriate limits to what the federal government can say is to be kept under wraps. Keeping America both safe and free requires a balance between power and transparency in our government: the Ashcroft Doctrine put that out of balance. Take action to thank Wisconsin Rep. Petri for his leadership on this bill.

While you’re at it, you can give a “boo” to Rep. Sensenbrenner for his support to renew the Patriot Act. The ACLU continues to fight to roll back or reform the Patriot Act which has allowed greater government interference in individual privacy rights.

Death Penalty
Thanks Senator Russ Feingold for reintroducing the bill to abolish the federal death penalty. The ACLU has been involved in fighting the death penalty in Wisconsin and across the country due to its ineffectiveness and disproportionate racial impact.

Updates on domestic spying and data mining, abortion service proposal at UW Health under attack

2 Feb

Domestic Spying
So it’s pretty official that the Bush administration spied on all of us with the willing help of telecommunications corporations. This whistleblower and former NSA analyst talks about how, under the auspices of keeping non-threatening people safe and separate from terrorists, journalists were spied on full-time. In the meantime, President Obama has nominated former law professor and noted Bush spying critic David Kris for the Assistant Attorney General position at the National Security Agency.

Wired says the data mining extended to other personal information including credit cards. Under the guise of protection, how are citizens guaranteed that these anti-terrorism dragnets aren’t leaving everyone exposed to hackers and identity thieves?

Reproductive Rights
Internationally, Obama overturned the global gag rule which would end the ban on international aid programs that go to family planning programs that include abortion in their education or service programs.

Women might not get such benefits in Wisconsin if anti-choice legislators and doctors get their way. Protests this weekend in front of local UW Health facilities brought a proposal to offer second trimester abortion services back into the headlines. UW Health is clear on its rules that abortion services would be paid for by insurance (or out of the pockets of service patients) and that doctors and nurses have the right to opt out if they hold their own personal objections. Ultimately it isn’t the right of anti-abortion doctors or legislators to decide for women who need an abortion which is only one of a spectrum of reproductive services that are vital to women’s equality, health care and self-determination.

Non-Profits
Did you hear that nonprofit organizations are hoping to get some of the federal stimulus funds? It’s a good idea to put some fuel into organizations that build houses and help with disaster relief. The ACLU, however, never accepts government funding. Our only stimulus comes from the generous support of our donors and members. Don’t forget to renew your membership! Our members are the lifeblood of our organization and we thank all of our many supporters who are keeping Team ACLU going strong. Join today on the ACLU of Wisconsin website.

Top ten to-do list for President Obama

18 Jan

Tuesday marks an officially new federal administration and the ACLU has a few ideas on how we can restore civil rights and liberties. We even have a top ten list.

A local radio station WORT’s news reporter, Craig McComb, visited the ACLU of Wisconsin’s statewide activist conference last year where he first heard about the ACLU’s transition plan for the new administration. Craig then gathered responses from local and state activists to address the critical need for immediate action to restore the rule of law.

Each segment is around five minutes long. Listen in and then send your own letter to President Obama to ask him to close Guantanamo, end the abuses of federal power, and take our country back to basic, Constitutional rights.

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Madison’s police cameras, terror watch list failures, DNC/RNC protests and more

25 Aug

News roundup!

Domestic Spying
More evidence that casting a wider net to spy on or track Americans doesn’t work – the terror watch list has become so big and poorly maintained that it is rife with search problems. Check out this editorial from the NYT on why the watch list is failing both our privacy and our security. Whether the databases work or not, the watch list frenzy will snag all kinds of people, even would-be gun owners.

In related news, here’s a good story about evolving technology use and ethics with police work. It looks at Madison/Dane County cameras and microphones in squad cars and how they can be both a benefit to protecting both officers and civilians from abuse (when they are actually turned on) and also underscores the need for everyone to know that you don’t have to be read your Miranda rights for anything you say to be possibly used against you in court.

Protest Rights
An article in The Nation illustrates the motivations behind many of the protesters who are demonstrating at the DNC and at the RNC. Check back with CapCityLiberty for updates on our legal observation support at the RNC next week.

Reproductive Rights
A St. Petersburg Times opinion writer who was also a former head of two ACLU affiliates wrote a good editorial about what is at stake for Roe v. Wade in the next election.

Voting Rights
A recent New York Times article details the slowdown on federal certification for electronic voting machines and includes information on how the national trend impacts Wisconsin.

Misc.
If you haven’t heard the news already, Air America radio talk show host Rachel Maddow will make a big move to MSNBC. She’s slated to be the featured guest at the ACLU of Wisconsin’s annual Bill of Rights dinner event in February 2009.p

Big Brother, Oh Brother!

22 Aug

Lots of news in the domestic spying world…

The US Justice Department has issued a proposal for new rules on domestic spying that would roll back privacy and oversight provisions put in place after Watergate. This “track ‘em all – just in case” system includes data fusion centers in which intelligence about citizens would be stored in databases shared among law enforcement agencies across jurisdiction lines.

According to <a href="
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/48078.html”>this McClatchy release on the proposed regs, “Michael German, a former veteran FBI agent who is now policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said if Mukasey moves ahead with the new rules as he describes them, he’ll be weakening restrictions originally put in place after the Watergate scandal to rein in the FBI’s domestic Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. At the time, the FBI spied on American political leaders and organizations deemed to be subversive throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s.”

The concerns about data fusion centers are at the heart of the treatment of protesters at the Democratic National Convention in Denver where peaceful protesters can be lumped together with “terrorists.” In a recent column, Amy Goodman writes about the overbroad definitions of suspicious activity which can land non-violent protesters in federal databases.

Goodman’s column also expressed concern with the literal “caging of dissent” in which arrestees will be taken to a large, temporary detainment facility without bathrooms or running water. The ACLU of Colorado is involved in talks with city law enforcement about attorney access and conditions of detainees.

CapCityLiberty has been sharing information about searches of electronics at the border, but now with the advent of the passport-light card with the radio frequency chip, citizens crossing back and forth into Canada or Mexico will have their travels recorded in a database for up to 15 years.

These data fusion centers are worse than watch lists – and event the watch lists are snagging children now. Here’s a recent action alert from the national ACLU:

Why is 7-year-old John Anderson from Minneapolis on the national Terrorist Watch List?


1. He pushed Tommy too hard on the playground.

2. His July 4th birthday means he distracts other Americans from celebrating their country.

3. John didn’t pick up the blocks during playtime.

The truth is that we don’t know how he got on the Terrorist Watch List. Or if he can get off it. It took an Act of Congress to get Nelson Mandela, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, off the list.

This ever-growing and ineffective Watch List demonstrates what’s wrong with the U.S. government’s current approach to security: it’s unfair and a waste of resources. And when our government wastes time and money like this, we are all put in more danger — not less.

Take our national security quiz to learn about other frightening national security “tools.”

The questions above might be light hearted, but the problems Americans face everyday due to overzealous security measures are real.

According to USA Today:
John Anderson of Minneapolis, [now 7] was first stopped at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2004, when his family took him for his first airplane ride to Disney World. “We checked in at the ticket counter, and the woman said in a stern voice, ‘Who is John Anderson?’ ” says his mother, Christine Anderson. “I pointed to my stroller.”

Her son is allowed to fly. But because his name is flagged, his family cannot print out a boarding pass for him online and he must check in at the ticket counter so an airline official can see that he’s a child.

Take Action!
To find out more about how to fight the “bigger monster with weaker chains” of government surveillance, come to the statewide ACLU of Wisconsin 2008 Activist Conference (Saturday, September 27, Monona Terrace in Madison) where we will feature the ACLU’s national expert on domestic spying, Barry Steinhardt. Registration is $30 for members, $10 for students and NEW members can get in the conference and get a new membership for $50. For more information, contact the Madison Area Office at (608) 469-5540.

Sexism leads to broken bones, what’s wrong with data fusion centers

7 Aug

Women’s Rights
Discrimination against female football player? Check out this story about a student crying foul about treatment by her football coach. What would you do if your kid wanted to play but was locked out of her locker room where her safety equipment was stored, only to break her clavicle during the practice? Seems like at Evansville High, the only thing behind the athletic glass ceiling are shoulder pads and a fair chance to play. And much like this recent editorial in the Cap Times on updates to federal Fair Pay rules, the best evidence of the state of sexism in America is not in the news but in the forum postings. If we ever needed fair pay or Title IX, it apparently is now.

ACLU reports: Fusion Centers Part of Incipient Domestic Intelligence System

Read the report here!

The nation’s growing network of “fusion centers” is part of an incipient domestic intelligence system, according to the ACLU. The ACLU released a report detailing spying on Maryland peace demonstrators, a mysterious domestic-spying scandal at a California military base and other recent incidents, confirming that its warnings about fusion centers were coming true.

In November 2007, the ACLU released a report, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers,” warning about the potential dangers of these new institutions, including ambiguous lines of authority, excessive secrecy, troubling private-sector and military roles, and an apparent bend toward collection of information about innocent activities and data mining. Our recent addendum to the report explains how new developments have only confirmed the urgency of these warnings.

“Congress and state officials need to learn more about fusion centers, engage in some very pointed inquiry about the effectiveness and the precise role of these centers, and at a minimum put in place strong checks and balances,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Too often, we’ve given our government new powers to fight terrorists, only to have them used against peace activists and other innocent Americans. This can’t be the future of law enforcement. Congress needs to end private-sector participation and military involvement in law enforcement. We need to learn from our mistakes, not repeat them.”

Data collection on WI voting admin, new FISA law as 4th amendment insult and ACLU on The Mic

15 Jul

Here are a couple of tidbits for today…

In a direct critique of Senator Obama’s FISA vote, Truthout’s Director Marc Ash writes, “The problem is that what was at stake in the FISA legislation vote was more than a political ideal; it was the rule of law. You ratified an unconstitutional and egregious degradation of the Fourth Amendment. That won’t go away easily. The United States’s Constitution is not merely the security blanket for ‘civil liberties groups.’ It is the birthright of all Americans. It is our national treasure… The alternative to the rule of law is the law of rule.”

Did you know that of about 9000 election clerks nationwide, about 2000 are in Wisconsin? Our highly decentralized voting administration system is great for localized registration and voting, yet a challenge to get a clear picture of whether or not we have uniformity in the system. Check out this story about data that will be collected this fall on how we do elections.

And check out the Madison Area ACLU Community Advocate Stacy Harbaugh on the progressive radio morning show yesterday morning:

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