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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.

Today is Data Privacy Day – It’s About More Than Your Credit Card and Social Security Number

28 Jan

Today is Data Privacy Day and it is an opportunity to remind everybody that while we enjoy the ever-changing and evolving technologies available to us, from Facebook to medical record sharing, we should always know that our data and our information belongs to us. Any searching or sharing of our information needs our permission.

A year ago, Wisconsin Senator Erpenbach took the lead on authoring a resolution recognizing Data Privacy Day (PDF) in Wisconsin. We now have an official statement about what data privacy means to our state government. In this statement, and in the continued educational work of the ACLU of Wisconsin, privacy rights are more than protection against credit card fraud and identity theft: it is a practice of safety, protection and practices for everybody.

“Privacy rights need to be defended year-round,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “Today is a great day to recognize how we can protect ourselves against identity theft, encroaching surveillance and data insecurity.”

Nationally the ACLU has been in the center of courtrooms, legislative hearings and the media to show what is wrong with public video surveillance, why the Real ID program doesn’t secure our identities and should be overturned, and how government surveillance technology is outpacing legal restraints to abuses of power.

Read more about the work that the ACLU is doing nationally to support privacy rights. Aspects of privacy rights that we work on include biological technology privacy (our DNA is our own), consumer privacy (don’t spy on what I buy), Internet free speech and privacy (make those Facebook photos private!), medical privacy (sharing electronic records is great for doctors, but shouldn’t be searched by non-medics), students rights (with cell phones and their non-directory information), and workers’ privacy (from camera surveillance to lack of protection of personal records).

Too Many Cameras on Madison’s State Street?

5 Jan

On January 1st, the Wisconsin State Journal published an article on the success of the use of surveillance cameras on State Street in downtown Madison. The ACLU of Wisconsin expressed an initial concern with the cameras, mostly because of the ubiquity of surveillance and the need for continued vigilance on the potential for abuse of surveillance tools. The spread of the use of surveillance cameras downtown was suggested for local business too.

Since then, police say that cameras have greatly helped with fighting crime (no percentage decrease in crime was noted in the article, but a murder that got a lot of press was mentioned to have been solved). We commented on the article in an interview yesterday with WORT FM’s In Our Backyard:

http://www.youtube.com/get_player

It’s true that surveillance cameras can be excellent tools in identifying perpetrators who break laws. But there are also reports from across the nation (and in the UK where CCTV surveillance is huge) about the abuse and misuse of cameras. If someone used a panable, zoomable surveillance camera to spy without cause or warrant into one of the residential apartments along State St., how would residents know they were being watched? Ideally Madisonians trust police and business owners to do the right thing. But our community needs more assurance that surveillance cameras aren’t at risk for abuse.

And while we are talking about privacy and technology, is anyone else freaked out about the full body scans they are putting in airport security checkpoints? Travelers on the news are being quoted as saying that they would welcome scanners to feel safe on airplanes, but at what point will smart terrorists find a way to get explosives past even this technology? Where will American’s breaking point be where humiliation at the airport is too much to consider giving up privacy as the price of safety?

Enjoy your Data Privacy Day

28 Jan

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin commends Senator Erpenbach and his fellow cosponsors for their bipartisan leadership to pass a resolution recognizing today as Data Privacy Day.

“Privacy rights need to be defended year-round,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “Today is a great day to recognize how we can protect ourselves against identity theft, encroaching surveillance and data insecurity.”

The ACLU has been in the center of courtrooms, legislative hearings and the media nationwide to show what is wrong with public video surveillance, why the Real ID program doesn’t secure our identities and should be overturned, and how government surveillance technology is outpacing legal restraints to abuses of power.

We hope we are heading into a new era of governmental recognition of the right to privacy. Today’s resolution is the first step to finding a balance among safety, security, technology and privacy.

Downtown Madison on candid camera? More surveillance proposals…

27 Jan

Will bartenders start saying “smile!” instead of “whatcha drinking?”

The discussion continues in downtown Madison, just as it does in communities across the country, about how to keep residents safer. Security cameras are typically brought up as an easy technological solution to safety challenges. But many new ACLU members are joining up because of their concerns about a whole spectrum of increasing surveillance. Examples range from the enormous (telecom’s all-too-willingness to hand over sweeping, warrantless access to our phone conversations to the federal government) to the inconspicuous (surveillance cameras aren’t just for banks anymore).

Downtown Madison, Inc., an advocacy group that promotes business and urban vitality in the downtown area recently responded to news reports on violence and alcohol-related crime. A part of their plan includes security cameras in area establishments. Businesses can certainly set up their own security cameras, but who is regulating how the cameras and data are used?

http://www.youtube.com/get_player
Downtown bars and liquor stores are already scanning IDs. One campus area bar is taking pictures of customers when they enter. With the addition of more cameras, patrons need to ask what is happening to their personal ID data, their pictures and videos from surveillance. Is it going to be deleted at the end of an uneventful night or are video clips of dance floors going to end up on a DIY coeds go wild website?

Safety doesn’t come from a camera. Both safety and freedom from surveillance only come from responsible actions of patrons and bar owners. Voice your opinion in the article’s forum section, in a letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal or the Capitol Times, or to Downtown Madison, Inc.

On a related note, we can also thank the Wisconsin State Senators and Assembly reps who sponsored a joint resolution (PDF) recognizing January 28th as Data Privacy Day. It’s nice to have leaders recognize the right to privacy in the face of increasing surveillance, identity theft and data management bungles in both the private and public sectors.

National news – Bush Approved CIA’s Torture, Military Oversteps Spying Powers, and More

15 Apr

April 15, 2008

Standing Up for Justice In the Military Commissions Proceedings
No doubt we’ve been at a critical juncture since September 11. How we respond to the atrocities thrust upon us after that terrible day says everything about who we are as Americans what values we defend, how the world sees us, and how history will remember us.

The manner in which we seek justice against those accused of harming us will determine whether the United States will be seen at home and abroad as a nation of laws. We must decide whether we live the values of justice that make us proud to be Americans, or whether we will forsake those values and continue down a path of arbitrary rules and procedures more befitting those who are our enemies. Because we are a great nation, true to our founders’ vision, we must uphold our core values even in the toughest of times. The right to a speedy trial in a court of law before an objective arbiter; the right to due process; the right to rebut the evidence against you; the right not to be tortured or waterboarded, or convicted on the basis of hearsay evidence are what truly define America and our commitment to the rule of law and our founders’ aspirations.

The military commissions set up by the Bush administration for the men imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay including those it suspects were involved in the September 11 attacks are not true American justice. These trials should represent who we are, what America stands for, and our commitment to due process. America does not stand for trials that rely on torture to gain confessions, or on secret evidence that a defendant cannot rebut, or on hearsay evidence.

For these reasons, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have taken on the task of assembling defense teams to be available to assist in the representation of those Guantánamo detainees who have been charged under the Military Commissions Act, subject to the detainees’ consent.

>>Read Anthony’s full statement.

>>Learn more about the project.

>>Read the press release.

Bush Admits to Top-Down Torture
In a stunning admission to ABC news Friday night, President Bush declared that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. Bush reportedly told ABC, “I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.” Bush also defended the use of waterboarding.

The ACLU is calling on Congress to demand an independent prosecutor to investigate possible violations by the Bush administration of laws including the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act, and federal assault laws.

>>Take Action: Demand that your members of Congress reject torture by holding to account those responsible for approving and implementing these un-American policies.

>>Read more about Bush’s admission.

ACLU FOIA Lawsuit Brings Yoo Torture Memo to Light
A secret memo, declassified recently as the result of an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, asserts President Bush has unlimited power to order brutal interrogations of detainees and also refers to a radical interpretation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

The memo, authored by John Yoo of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in March 2003, cites a still-secret DOJ memo from 2001 that found that the “Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.”

The October 2001 memo was almost certainly meant to provide a legal basis for the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, which President Bush launched the same month the memo was issued. As a component of the Department of Defense, the NSA is a military agency.

“The recent disclosures underscore the Bush administration’s extraordinarily sweeping conception of executive power,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The administration’s lawyers believe the president should be permitted to violate statutory law, to violate international treaties, and even to violate the Fourth Amendment inside the U.S. They believe that the president should be above the law.”

The Bush administration has never argued publicly that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to military operations within the nation’s borders. The released memo publicizes this argument for the first time.

The 2003 memo cites the October 2001 memo but takes its argument even further. Relying on the earlier memo, the March 2003 memo argues that the president has authority as Commander-in-Chief to bypass not only the Fourth Amendment but the central due process guarantee of the Fifth Amendment as well.

>>Learn more about the released memo.

Unredacted Documents Confirm Lack of Oversight of Military’s Domestic Surveillance Powers
Newly unredacted documents, released as a result of an ACLU lawsuit, reveal that the Department of Defense (DoD) is using the FBI to circumvent legal limits on its own National Security Letter (NSL) power and may have overstepped its authority to obtain private and sensitive records of people within the United States without court approval.

>>Read the memo.

NSLs are secretly issued by the government to obtain access to personal customer records from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions, and credit reporting agencies. In almost all cases, recipients of the NSLs are forbidden, or “gagged,” from disclosing that they have received the letters. While the FBI has broad NSL powers and compliance with FBI-issued NSLs is mandatory, the Defense Department’s NSL power is more limited in scope, and, in most cases, compliance with Defense Department demands is not mandatory.

“If the Defense Department is asking the FBI to get information it is not allowed to access on its own, there is a serious problem within both agencies,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

A newly unredacted copy of the results and recommendations of an internal program review shows that the Navy’s use of NSLs to demand domestic records has increased significantly since September 11; and contrary to prior claims by the military, its NSL use is not limited to investigating only DoD employees.

Since last year, DoD has turned over more than 1,000 pages of documents to the ACLU, including nearly 500 NSLs which show that the military may have overstepped its legal authority to obtain financial and credit records, provided misleading information to Congress, and silenced NSL recipients from speaking out about the records requests.

>>Learn more about the NSL abuses.

Don’t Let Employers Get Away With Pay Discrimination
Last May, the Supreme Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear that employees who have suffered years of pay discrimination cannot have their day in court if they don’t discover the discrimination within 180 days of their employer’s initial discriminatory pay decision.

The Ledbetter decision not only reversed years of employment law, it also ignored the realities of a workplace. Often employees don’t know what their co-workers are paid. Further, expecting that they learn that information within the first 180 days of a pay decision is unreasonable. Unless Congress intervenes, companies will be able to discriminate for years and unjustly profit from paying women, minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities, as long as it keeps the discrimination secret for a few months.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to correct this problem, and to ensure employers do not profit from years of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability, simply because their employees were unaware of the discrimination for 180 days. The bill clarified this wage discrimination is not a one-time occurrence, but rather, that each discriminatory paycheck an employer issues represents an ongoing violation of the law.

A similar bill, the Fair Pay Restoration Act (S.1843), is now before the U.S. Senate. The time has come for the Senate to correct this wrong and let American workers keep their hard-earned dollars.

>>Take Action: Urge your Senators to support the Fair Pay Restoration Act.

Stand Up for Freedom: June 8 — 10 in Washington, D.C.
Everyday, the headlines confirm that the government’s abuses of power ignore fundamental Constitutional principles and undermine our vital system of checks and balances, weakening the hallmarks of American democracy. You cannot afford to miss this important opportunity to protect the civil liberties of all Americans.

Stand Up for Freedom and help us stop the abuse of power at the ACLU 2008 Membership Conference, June 8-10 in Washington, D.C.!

At the ACLU Membership Conference you’ll have the opportunity to hear from a variety of experts, from a wide range of backgrounds, each with an exciting and unique perspective on civil liberties. Confirmed speakers for the conference include: Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post and nationally syndicated columnist; Judy Gold, an Emmy Award winning actress and comedian; and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David H. Souter will pay tribute to the ACLU’s president, during a celebratory luncheon entitled, Our Lady Liberty: Celebrating Nadine Strossen.

>>Register or learn more about the conference.

Homeless versus parking, red light cameras, pre-Roe laws and more

7 Mar

News roundup for today…

Homelessness
When local attorney and downtown property owner Fred Mohs reconsidered his parking garage contract with a downtown Madison church, the church’s homeless shelter program became a bargaining point. The church voted unanimously to give up the parking contract and continue offering shelter. The WSJ article give the background and the A Cap Times article features an active forum debate.

Immigration
The Sheriff’s statements about cooperating with ICE in reporting when undocumented immigrants are in custody is being reviewed. The State Journal also featured a page full of letters to the editor on immigration, probably in response to the article on the public hearing last week. One even asks why it is a problem for non-citizens to be denied a fair trial. Due process and equal protection is a Constitutional guarantee for all people in the United State, not just citizens. That’s Bill of Rights and human rights basics.

Racial Justice
Assembly approves bill to end the requirement of denying students’ the option to transfer schools if the transfer request would create a racial imbalance. The bill would replace race with socioeconomics. But in the history of race and segregation in our country, are socioeconomics enough?

Reproductive Rights
Rep. Jim Ott defends himself from a Planned Parenthood radio attack ad. Planned Parenthood is going after Ott and opponents of the Women’s Health and Safety act (AB 749/SB 398) which would repeal the pre-Roe v. Wade criminal abortion statute that is still on the Wisconsin books. Anti-choice activists insist that Planned Parenthood is misrepresenting the pre-Roe law, but you can read the statute and its amendments for yourself. Section 940.04 on page 2 is the original law penalizing women who have an abortion. Page 5 shows statutes that exempt women from the original penalties, but could also be overturned if anti-choice extremists gain even more legislative control.

Surveillance
Surprisingly enough, few readers brought up objections to surveillance in their letters to the editor in response to a column objecting to a proposed Assembly bill that would allow for the installation of “red light cameras” on Wisconsin roads.

ACLU Online update – national news

5 Feb

February 1 , 2008

Congress Must Stand Up to Bush’s Protect America Act

Tell Congress: Stand Up to Bush’s Scare Tactics!

With the deadline for renewing the FISA-gutting “Protect America Act” looming, President Bush once again resorted to fear-mongering during Monday’s State of the Union address when he claimed that the “flow of vital intelligence” would be disrupted without an extension. Congress, in turn, extended the Protect America Act through Friday, February 15.

Is this 15-day extension a victory for civil liberties? If Congress uses the extension wisely, it gives more time to make real changes that protect the rule of law and bring spying in line with the Constitution. It could also be a prelude to another Congressional cave-in, but not if we have anything to say about it.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Senate will be finalizing and voting on its spying bill. The ACLU, its hundreds of thousands of members and millions of Americans who believe in the rule of law and want their privacy protected are calling on the Senate to stand up to President Bush’s fear-mongering.

The ACLU will remain unwavering in our demands. Tell the Senate to stand up to President Bush on telecom immunity and reject massive, untargeted surveillance without a warrant.

>> Take action: Tell your senators to oppose any bill with telecom immunity or warrantless spying on Americans.

>> Get the Facts: Debunking Bush’s Fear-Mongering

Federal Judge Orders CIA and Defense Department to Produce Torture Documents

As a result of an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the government to produce documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas to determine for himself if they should be made public.

“Given the evidence of widespread and systemic abuse of prisoners, it is entirely appropriate for the judge to view these documents for himself instead of taking the government’s word for why they should be kept secret,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU.

The documents the judge will view include:
– Department of Defense documents relating to the deaths of prisoners; allegations of prisoner abuse; and interrogations that deviate from those permitted by the current Army Field Manual;

– A September 17, 2001 CIA Presidential Directive setting up secret CIA detention centers abroad;

– CIA documents gathered by the agency’s Inspector General in the course of investigations into unlawful and improper conduct by CIA personnel; and

– Documents discussing the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation program.

The judge is still considering the ACLU’s motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying thousands of hours of videotape depicting the abusive interrogations of two detainees in its custody. The ACLU charges that by destroying the tapes, the CIA violated a September 2004 court order requiring the agency to produce or identify records that fell within the scope of its FOIA request.

>> Read more about the ACLU’s FOIA request.

ACLU Asks Federal Appeals Court to Lift Ban on Renowned Scholar

The ACLU recently appealed a ruling to challenge the government’s exclusion of Tariq Ramadan, a renowned Swiss scholar, from the U.S. The ACLU believes that the government’s stated reason for barring the scholar is a pretext and that Ramadan, a leading European academic, remains banned from the country because of his political viewpoints.

“The Bush administration has barred Professor Ramadan from the U.S. for more than three years now — first by alleging without basis that he endorsed terrorism, then saying that it would take years to consider his visa application, and now pointing to charitable donations that were entirely legal at the time they were made,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.

The government originally revoked Ramadan’s visa in 2004 based on the so-called “ideological exclusion” provision of the Patriot Act, a provision that applies to individuals who have “endorsed or espoused” terrorism, because he made small donations to a Swiss charity that provides aid to the Palestinians. This revocation prevented Ramadan from taking up a tenured teaching post at the University of Notre Dame. The government later abandoned its claim when it could not produce any evidence that Ramadan had endorsed terrorism. On the contrary, Ramadan has been a consistent and vocal critic of terrorism and those who use it.

>> Read more about the Ramadan case, the history of ideological exclusion at: http://www.aclu.org/exclusion

Become a Guardian of Liberty Today—You Can Make the Difference

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ACLU Asks Federal Court to Block Use of Unfair Voting Technology in Ohio

The ACLU filed a motion this week asking federal Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the Northern District of Ohio to prevent the Ohio Secretary of State and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections from using balloting technology that does not give notice to voters of problems with their ballot. The motion follows a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on January 17 challenging the constitutionality of this technology.

“Every voter who goes to the polls must have the opportunity to verify his or her ballot is free from errors,” said ACLU Voting Rights Project attorney Meredith Bell-Platts. “The evidence is overwhelming that when voters do not have access to technology that notifies them of ballot errors, many more ballots are left uncounted.”

Recently, the Ohio Secretary of State Brunner and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections opted to implement ballots that do not provide notice of problems with votes. Cuyahoga County, which contains Columbus and surrounding areas, is the only county in Ohio whose current process does not allow notice to voters of problems with their ballot.

On January 22, the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a non-partisan organization representing Ohio’s elections officials, voted unanimously against the sweeping changes Brunner has proposed, particularly emphasizing that counties should not adopt any voting technology that prevents voters from verifying their ballots are filled out correctly.

>> Read about the case.

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