Posts Tagged ‘Civil Liberties

10
Nov
10

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.

 

10
Nov
10

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.

 

05
Nov
10

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.

 

 




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