Archive for the 'ACLU' Category

06
Nov
10

Secrets

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.

 

13
Oct
10

Fortune-Telling Ban Challenged in Federal Court

Give me a Break!  Doesn’t the State Government in Tennessee have anything better to do?

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN) filed a case in federal court today on behalf of an East Ridge woman whose free speech rights were being violated because of a local city ordinance that prohibits fortune telling.

Candice Wohlfeil, spiritual counselor and East Ridge flea market vendor, began reading tarot cards at her booth in 2007.  In 2008, she was informed by the city of East Ridge that she was in violation of a local ordinance which prohibits anyone from fortune-telling.  When she questioned the constitutionality of the law, the East Ridge city attorney said he would investigate and left her alone.

Then, in September 2010, a codes enforcer came to her booth and told her she was in violation of the ordinance and that she would be fined $500 per violation from that point forward.  She had no choice but to close down her booth.  Wohlfeil again contacted the city attorney.  When she received no reply, she contacted ACLU-TN.

“The First Amendment precludes the government from declaring which ideas are acceptable or not,” said ACLU-TN Cooperating Attorney Donna Roberts, of Stites & Harbison, PLLC.  “Our client has the right to make predictions, whether for fun or profit, without the government discriminating against the content of her speech.

”Wohlfeil also attended a city council meeting on Sept. 9 and explained why she believed the ordinance was unconstitutional.  The council stated they would get back to her on the matter but never did.  ACLU-TN tried to contact the East Ridge city attorney but received no reply.

On October 7 ACLU-TN filed suit asking for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction which would allow Ms. Wohlfeil to continue operating her booth at the flea market while the court permanently resolves the constitutional issues in the local fortune-telling ordinance.

“All I want to do is practice my trade of spiritual counselor,” Wohlfeil stated.  “The government is not allowed to dictate what I can and can’t say and I look forward to this being resolved so that I can get back to helping people.”

In addition to Roberts, Wohlfeil is represented by Tricia Herzfeld, ACLU-TN Staff Attorney.

The case, Candice Wohlfeil v. The City of East Ridge, was filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District at Chattanooga.

Source: (http://goo.gl/sEWx) from ACLU Newsroom

 




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