What is Gerrymandering


Redistricting doesn’t always mean better representation.


Edie Windsor and the ACLU Challenge the “Defense of Marriage Act”


Edith “Edie” Windsor, who shared her life with her late spouse, Thea Spyer, for 44 years, filed a lawsuit against the federal government for refusing to recognize their marriage. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, a federal statute that defines marriage for all federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. Windsor and Spyer were married in Canada in 2007 and were considered married by their home state of New York.

Stand with the ACLU in the fight for equality.



Well if Bush Can Get Away With It – So Can I

Our President and the DNC wonders how we lost so many House seats and did poorly in the Senate races; well maybe they should look back at what got them into office.  So far there’s really been “No” change from the Cheney Administration of “Law of Rule” as opposed to the “Rule of Law” from which we have always believed in.

Obama Administration Claims Unchecked Authority To Kill Americans Outside Combat Zones


Federal Court Hears Arguments Today In ACLU And CCR Case Challenging Administration’s Claimed Authority To Assassinate Americans It Designates Threats.


WASHINGTON – The Obama administration today argued before a federal court that it should have unreviewable authority to kill Americans the executive branch has unilaterally determined to pose a threat. Government lawyers made that claim in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) charging that the administration’s asserted targeted killing authority violates the Constitution and international law. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia heard arguments from both sides today.


“Not only does the administration claim to have sweeping power to target and kill U.S. citizens anywhere in the world, but it makes the extraordinary claim that the court has no role in reviewing that power or the legal standards that apply,” said CCR Staff Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei, who presented arguments in the case. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the government’s claim to an unchecked system of global detention, and the district court should similarly reject the administration’s claim here to an unchecked system of global targeted killing.”


The ACLU and CCR were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring a lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi. The lawsuit asks the court to rule that, outside the context of armed conflict, the government can carry out the targeted killing of an American citizen only as a last resort to address an imminent threat to life or physical safety. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the government to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists.


“If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the president does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state,” said Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, who presented arguments in the case. “It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the nation from terrorist attacks, but the courts have a crucial role to play in ensuring that counterterrorism policies are consistent with the Constitution.”


The government filed a brief in the case in September, claiming that the executive’s targeted killing authority is a “political question” that should not be subject to judicial review. The government also asserted the “state secrets” privilege, contending that the case should be dismissed to avoid the disclosure of sensitive information.


The lawsuit was filed against CIA Director Leon Panetta, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Barrack Obama in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Ben Wizner, Jonathan Manes and Jennifer Turner of the ACLU; Kebriaei, Maria LaHood and Bill Quigley of CCR; and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital. Co-counsel in Yemen is Mohammed Allawo of the Allawo Law Firm and the National Organization for Defending Human Rights (HOOD).


For more information on the case, including fact sheets and legal papers, visit:www.aclu.org/targetedkillings and www.ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings




No Tickee – No Laundry

Exiled From Home

Source: (http://goo.gl/JPAWB)  from Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union


Last summer, the ACLU and its affiliates in Oregon, Southern California, Northern California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of 17 U.S. citizens and legal residents to challenge their placement on the U.S. government’s No-Fly List and the failure of the government to give them a chance to defend themselves. Some of these people were in the United States when they found themselves suddenly and without explanation unable to board a plane. Others — including military veterans, students and people visiting family — were overseas and were effectively exiled from their own country because they couldn’t board a plane to fly home.

Although all of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit were facing serious problems, those stuck abroad were in the most immediate need. In August, we filed a motion seeking preliminary relief on behalf of these individuals to help them return to their families, jobs, and homes in the United States. The government has since permitted these individuals to fly home, but will not tell them whether they were taken off the list or if were just given one-time waivers to fly home. Because of the secrecy surrounding the No-Fly List, they won’t know until they try to fly again.

Not having the ability to fly has a huge impact on people’s lives — including their ability to perform their jobs and visit their families. Here is the story of one of the plaintiffs, in his own words:


My name is Raymond Earl Knaeble IV. I am an American citizen. I have served my country honorably as a member of the U.S. military.

I am also a new Muslim. I recently converted to Islam when I was in Kuwait about a year ago. I never thought I would become a Muslim until I learned and studied about the Truth of Islam.

I believe it was because of my new faith that the FBI forced me into exile earlier this year. In March, I tried to fly home to the United States from Colombia, where I was recently married. I was not allowed to board the plane. Airline representatives told me to go to the U.S. embassy, and when I got there a government official took my passport. No one told me why I couldn’t fly home. I was forced to stay in a foreign country with no way to return. I fully cooperated with government officials. I answered every question officials asked me, provided my SIM card and all of the contacts I knew in the Middle East, and told them my life story. I was interrogated day in and day out by the FBI, but no one ever told me what charge they had against me or why I could not fly home. What is my crime? The only thing I know is that I am an American citizen, but I am also a Muslim. It seems that being Muslim has become a crime in the United States.

I lost a good job because I could not make it to a mandatory medical screening when the FBI excluded me from America, the country of my birth.

Eventually, desperate to get home, I attempted to fly to Nuevo Laredo in Mexico in order to cross a land border into the United States. I was turned back — after a lengthy detention and questioning — by officials in Mexico City and not allowed to travel by air or land to the U.S. border.

In August, I began a new journey in which I flew to Panama, then traveled by bus through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and all of Mexico to the U.S. border at Mexicali. During this journey I was subjected to three separate detentions by government officials who searched my belongings and subjected me to extended interrogations. In Guatemala, I was questioned and followed. On one occasion, I had to run after my bus, which had left while I was being questioned. When I finally reached the United States, the country of my birth and my home, U.S. officials handcuffed me. They detained me for 10 hours, put me through intense interrogation, and searched all of my belongings, including my laptop computer and other electronic equipment. They released me at 2:30 in the morning and finally allowed me to enter my country. I took a bus from the border to San Francisco.

I am a veteran of the U.S. armed forces and I have no criminal record. I am no threat to national security and have been charged with no crime. The FBI put me on a list that turned my life upside-down and there is no process in place to make them tell me why, or let me respond to any accusations they may have against me. Now that I have made it home, I cannot fly to visit my new wife in Colombia or other relatives within the United States. Adding insult to injury, since I’ve been back, I am followed by federal agents wherever I go.

Now I am waiting for the legal process to work. But it may be years before I can freely exercise my right to travel in and out of the country freely — a right that belongs to all Americans, but that our government has put on hold for many of us, apparently for no other reason than our religious beliefs and practices.

While the return home of our clients who were once stuck abroad marks a victory, the fundamental problems with the No-Fly List remain and our lawsuit continues. It’s unconstitutional for the government to put people on a list and stop them from flying without telling them why or giving them a reasonable chance to defend themselves. Due process requires that each of the 17 plaintiffs we represent get this chance, including veterans of our armed services, like Ray Knaeble.




Doug Liman Talks “Fair Game”

Source: (http://goo.gl/Q72NY) by Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director, Center for Democracy

Which secrets should be kept, and which should be exposed? Those questions are at the heart of Doug Liman’s new film, Fair Game, which tells the story of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Joe Wilson, remember, was the former U.S. diplomat who exposed one of the many false claims made by the Bush administration in the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Valerie Plame is Wilson’s wife, a covert CIA operative whose identity the Bush administration disclosed to reporters in an effort to retaliate against Wilson.

The film is about Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, but it’s also about secrecy. The Bush administration gathers evidence to support its claim that Iraq presents an imminent threat to the United States and its allies. The intelligence is manipulated, and the evidence is false, but the public is told only the rotten conclusion — that Iraq has sought yellowcake uranium from Niger — and the public is of course not in any position to evaluate that claim, because the evidence to support it is secret. Joe Wilson exposes the truth; he pierces the secrecy that conceals government misconduct. He’s a whistleblower in the best sense of the word.

But of course Joe Wilson isn’t the only one in the film who pierces secrecy. When Joe Wilson exposes the truth about the yellowcake claim, the Bush administration decides to discredit him by exposing the truth about his wife. Joe Wilson has a secret, too, and the government exposes it. Lewis Libby and Karl Rove are whistleblowers in a different sense of the world. When they pierce secrecy, it is an extension of government misconduct that they’re already engaged in.

There’s a sense in which these two narratives — or these two sides of Liman’s narrative — are emblematic of twin political shifts that have taken place over the last decade years. The public knows less and less about government policy; government secrecy is increasingly the norm, and transparency the exception. At the same time, the government knows more and more about individual citizens; government surveillance is increasingly pervasive, and increasingly intrusive. These twin shifts reverse the proper relationship between a democratic government and its citizens. It’s supposed to be the government that’s transparent and accountable to the citizenry, but increasingly transparency and accountability work only in the other direction.

As government secrecy has become the norm, particularly on issues relating to national security, we’re increasingly reliant on whistleblowers to provide us with information. Without leaks to the media, we wouldn’t know about the Abu Ghraib abuses, we wouldn’t know about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, and of course we wouldn’t know about the yellowcake scandal. It’s worth asking whether this is good for our democracy.

And as government surveillance has become the norm, citizens are also more and more vulnerable to government power. Valerie Plame is an extreme case, because her secret was one that, when exposed, almost completely destroyed her life. But the government knows more and more of our secrets — at the very least, it knows who we call overseas, it knows who we correspond with by email, it has access to our banking records, our telephone records, our credit records, our internet surfing histories. With information comes power; in this context, the power to expose is the power to destroy. Here, too, it’s worth asking whether this is good for our democracy.

No one is above the law. Ask your member of Congress to support the State Secrets Protection Act today.



Federal Judge Finds Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Unconstitutional

It’s time for America to stop justifying the “Police State” that has developed over the past ten years and start asking our government about restoring some our freedoms that have been taken away under the disguise of “Fear”.

Federal Judge Finds Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking Unconstitutional


In August, we blogged about a court decision from the federal court in the Eastern District of New York that held that law enforcement agents are constitutionally obligated to get a warrant based on probable cause before obtaining historical cell phone location information. And in September, wewrote about an opinion from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals holding that judges may order the government to get a warrant based on probable cause for historical cell phone location information. However, the 3rd Circuit also held that judges are not obligated to require probable cause, and cautioned that they should only require the government to meet this high standard on rare occasions. Now another court has joined the fray. In a detailed opinion (PDF) citing documents obtained through litigation by the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation, Judge Stephen Smith of the Southern District of Texas held that “warrantless disclosure of cell site data violates the Fourth Amendment.”

A few aspects of the opinion (PDF) are worth noting:

  • The government’s application appears to request historical location information for whenever the phone was turned on, not just when calls were made. According to Judge Smith, “the Government seeks continuous location data to track the target phone over a two month period, whether the phone was in active use or not.” This is notable because the cell tracking applications we have seen previously only sought location information for those moments when an individual actually made a phone call. The government is now asking for a great deal more information, and consequently its requests are now more invasive than we previously thought.
  • Cell phone tracking information is increasingly accurate. The opinion devotes many pages to explaining the ways in which cell tracking information has grown more accurate over time. In fact, it is because of these “refinements in location-based technology” that Judge Smith concludes that requests for cell tracking information trigger the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement.
  • The Fourth Amendment requires the government to get a warrant and show probable cause to obtain historical cell tracking information. The court reached this conclusion both because cell tracking reveals information about constitutionally protected spaces such as the home, and because the prolonged nature of such surveillance is very invasive. The court likened the records sought by the government to “a continuous reality TV show, exposing two months’ worth of a person’s movements, activities, and associations in relentless detail.”

As we have explained elsewhere, the ACLU agrees with Judge Smith that the government should be required to obtain a warrant and show probable cause before obtaining cell tracking information. As powerful new technologies enhance the ability of government agents to track our every move, it becomes all the more important that the courts hold the government to a rigorous standard before the government can access such sensitive information.




We’re Finally Stepping Up to the Plate

We’ve advocated Human Rights for years, starting with the Carter Administration, and only now are we beginning to account to the international community regarding our own violations.

The best that can be said is “it’s a start”

Holding America Accountable at International Human Rights Review

Source: (http://goo.gl/jDyQpPosted by Alessandra Soler Meetze, Executive Director, ACLU of Arizona

This Friday, and for the first time ever, the United States will submit to a peer review of its human rights record as part of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is taking place this week in Geneva.

I’m in Geneva as a member of the ACLU delegation to observe these proceedings. Panama and Mongolia were reviewed on Tuesday; dozens of countries submitted questions and recommendations on how well these two democratic nations were promoting and protecting human rights within their borders.

Delegates from Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal commended Mongolia forissuing a moratorium against the death penalty earlier this year, but they urged the Mongolian government to take it a step further and immediately commute all death sentences. While most countries consider the application of the death penalty a gross violation of international human right norms, the United States continues to apply it in 35 states throughout the country. Just last week,Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan using a drug imported from England(according to Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard) and despite lingering doubts surrounding his guilt.

The death penalty is a topic that will surely come up on Friday morning when the United States submits to its review. And given the controversy over S.B. 1070, there’s no doubt that questions regarding racial profiling and immigration enforcement also will be raised during the U.S. review — topics that hit close to home. Although some of the most dangerous provisions of S.B. 1070 were blocked by a federal court judge, federal programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities continue to thrive in Arizona despite concerns over racial profiling and unlawful detentions of legal permanent residents and U.S. citizens. A recent study based on Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network found that these programs target low-level offenders who pose little public safety threats (PDF) and wrongly identified about 5,880 people who turned out to be United States citizens.

In between the country reviews, I attended one of several “side events” held throughout the weeklong UPR session. One side event was organized by the Center for Reproductive Rights and focused on sexual and reproductive health care for marginalized populations in the U.S. Another side event sponsored by the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty addressed the lack of adequate housing in United States and the amazing efforts of nongovernmental organizations — or NGOs — in stepping in to address the housing needs of communities across the country especially in the midst of the economic crisis.

These first few days of my weeklong trip to Geneva have been extremely inspirational. I’ve had the opportunity to meet advocates from other NGOs who are working tirelessly to incorporate the human rights principles that are being discussed here in Geneva back home. We oftentimes forget that while we’re among the largest, wealthiest country in the world, we also continue to tolerate and condone violations of international human rights norms. The question is: will the U.S. live to its promise to lead by example and take the UPR recommendations seriously? Let’s hope so!



The Month in Review

October 2016
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