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Report Finds NSA Surveillance Harming Journalism and Law

July 29, 2014 Comments off

Report Finds NSA Surveillance Harming Journalism and Law
Source: ACLU and Human Rights Watch

Large-scale U.S. surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch said in a joint report released today. Surveillance is undermining media freedom and the right to counsel, and ultimately obstructing the American people’s ability to hold their government to account, the groups said.

The 120-page report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” is based on extensive interviews with dozens of journalists, lawyers, and senior U.S. government officials. It documents how national security journalists and lawyers are adopting elaborate steps or otherwise modifying their practices to keep communications, sources, and other confidential information secure in light of revelations of unprecedented U.S. government surveillance of electronic communications and transactions. The report finds that government surveillance and secrecy are undermining press freedom, the public’s right to information, and the right to counsel, all human rights essential to a healthy democracy.

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War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing

July 1, 2014 Comments off

War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

All across the country, heavily armed SWAT teams are raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night, often just to search for drugs. It should enrage us that people have needlessly died during these raids, that pets have been shot, and that homes have been ravaged.

Our neighborhoods are not warzones, and police officers should not be treating us like wartime enemies. Any yet, every year, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment flows from the federal government to state and local police departments. Departments use these wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color.

As our new report makes clear, it’s time for American police to remember that they are supposed to protect and serve our communities, not wage war on the people who live in them.

Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System

June 24, 2014 Comments off

Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison System
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

In rural Texas, 3,000 men are locked inside a “tent city,” sleeping in bunk beds spaced only a few feet apart. The tents are crawling with insects and the smell of broken, overflowing toilets. This is Willacy County Correctional Center: a physical symbol of everything that is wrong with enriching the private prison industry and criminalizing immigration.

More than 25,000 low-security non-U.S. citizens languish at thirteen private prisons like Willacy under Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) contracts. For years, these for-profit prisons have been able to operate in the shadows, effectively free from public scrutiny. That ends now.

More Than 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses, Finds ACLU

November 17, 2013 Comments off

More Than 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses, Finds ACLU
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

In the first-ever study of people serving life without parole for nonviolent offenses in the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union found that at least 3,278 prisoners fit this category in federal and state prisons combined.

“A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses” features key statistics about these prisoners, an analysis of the laws that produced their sentences, and case studies of 110 men and women serving these sentences. Of the 3,278 prisoners, 79 percent were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes such as possession or distribution, and 20 percent of nonviolent property crimes like theft.

ACLU EYE on the FBI: Documents Reveal Lack of Privacy Safeguards and Guidance in Government’s “Suspicious Activity Report” Systems

November 12, 2013 Comments off

ACLU EYE on the FBI: Documents Reveal Lack of Privacy Safeguards and Guidance in Government’s “Suspicious Activity Report” Systems
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Government documents obtained by the ACLU show that nationwide programs that collect so-called “Suspicious Activity Reports” provide inadequate privacy safeguards and guidance on the definition of “suspicious activity,” leading to violations of Americans’ First Amendment and privacy rights, and to racial and religious profiling.

Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma

November 8, 2013 Comments off

Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma
Source: American Civil Liberties Union, Service Women’s Action Network, Yale Law School

Sexual assault and harassment are serious problems in the United States armed forces. Thousands of service members each year are estimated to have experienced some form of military sexual trauma (MST), including rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

Less well known is the second battle that many veterans who survive sexual violence must fight with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) when they return to civilian life.

“Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma,” a report released by Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), the American Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project (ACLU), and the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT), with assistance by the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic, reveals that the process of obtaining VA disability benefits for the enduring mental health effects of military sexual trauma (MST) is an unfair fight in which veterans are often unsuccessful. Veterans who survive in-service sexual trauma face discrimination in seeking compensation.

Protecting the Rights of Transgender Parents and Their Children: A Guide for Parents and Lawyers

October 29, 2013 Comments off

Protecting the Rights of Transgender Parents and Their Children: A Guide for Parents and Lawyers (PDF)
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

More and more transgender parents are fighting to protect their relationships with their children in the face of custody challenges. Yet they face significant obstacles. Parents who have come out or transitioned after having a child with a spouse or partner have seen their gender transition raised as a basis to deny or restrict child custody or visitation. Transgender people who formed families after coming out or transitioning have faced challenges to their legal status as parents, often based on attacks on the validity of their marriages.

Many transgender people have and raise children without encountering legal challenges to their fitness or legal status as a parent. However, such challenges are still all too common. And many parents have been treated terribly by the courts because judges have a limited understanding of what it means to be transgender and they have very little—and inconsistent—case law to guide them.

The purpose of this guide is to provide information to transgender parents and their attorneys to help them protect parent-child relationships and assist them when faced with disputes over child custody issues.

ACLU Report Documents FBI Abuse Since 9/11

September 18, 2013 Comments off

ACLU Report Documents FBI Abuse Since 9/11
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been granted by Congress and assumed for itself the power to investigate and collect data about millions of people.

A report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union provides a comprehensive accounting of the bureau’s expanded post-9/11 investigative and intelligence collection authorities, their impact on civil liberties in the United States, and the FBI’s evasion of oversight that enables abuses to continue. It also includes 15 recommendations for FBI reform.

Entitled, “Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI’s Unchecked Abuse of Authority,” the first half of the report documents how Congress, the attorney general, and the White House provided the FBI with new authorities in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in an effort to prevent another terrorist attack inside the United States. With the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 and the FISA Amendments Act in 2008, Congress provided the FBI with increasingly powerful tools that the bureau has used in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments, according to the ACLU report.

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

July 17, 2013 Comments off

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Automatic license plate readers are the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, recording their plate numbers, times, and locations. At first the captured plate data was used just to check against lists of cars law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen cars, etc.). But increasingly, all of this data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans stretching back for months or even years.

This is what we have found after analyzing more than 26,000 pages of documents from police departments in cities and towns across the country, obtained through freedom of information requests by ACLU affiliates in 38 states and Washington, D.C. As it becomes increasingly clear that ours is an era of mass surveillance facilitated by ever cheaper and more powerful computing technology (think about the NSA’s call logging program), it is critical we learn how this technology is being used. License plate readers are just one example of a disturbing phenomenon: the government is increasingly using new technology to collect information about all of us, all the time, and to store it forever – providing a complete record of our lives for it to access at will.

Today, we are releasing all of the documents we have received (accessible through this interactive map and this issue page) and are publishing a report, “You Are Being Tracked,” which explains what these documents say about license plate readers: what they are capable of, how they are being used, and what privacy harms they can cause if protections aren’t put in place. We’re also offering more than a dozen recommendations we think local police departments and state legislatures should follow when they pass laws about this technology.

The War on Marijuana in Black and White

June 4, 2013 Comments off

The War on Marijuana in Black and White

Source: American Civil Liberties Union

The aggressive enforcement of marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnares hundreds of thousands of people into the criminal justice system and wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars. What’s more, it is carried out with staggering racial bias. Despite being a priority for police departments nationwide, the War on Marijuana has failed to reduce marijuana use and availability and diverted resources that could be better invested in our communities.

Growing Up Locked Down – Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States

October 11, 2012 Comments off

Growing Up Locked Down – Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States

Source: American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch

Every day, in jails and prisons across the United States, young people under the age of 18 are held in solitary confinement. They spend 22 or more hours each day alone, usually in a small cell behind a solid steel door, completely isolated both physically and socially, often for days, weeks, or even months on end. Sometimes there is a window allowing natural light to enter or a view of the world outside cell walls. Sometimes it is possible to communicate by yelling to other inmates, with voices distorted, reverberating against concrete and metal. Occasionally, they get a book or bible, and if they are lucky, study materials. But inside this cramped space, few contours distinguish one hour, one day, week, or one month, from the next.

A new report from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.

FOIA Documents Show FBI Using “Mosque Outreach” for Intelligence Gathering

March 30, 2012 Comments off

FOIA Documents Show FBI Using “Mosque Outreach” for Intelligence Gathering
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

For several years, the FBI’s San Francisco office conducted a “Mosque Outreach” program through which it collected and illegally stored intelligence about American Muslims’ First Amendment-protected beliefs and religious practices, according to government documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Northern California, Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

The San Francisco FBI’s own documents show that it recorded Muslim religious leaders’ and congregants’ identities, personal information and religious views and practices. The documents also show that the FBI labeled this information as “positive intelligence” and disseminated it to other government agencies, placing the people and organizations involved at risk of greater law enforcement scrutiny as potential national security threats. None of the documents indicate that the FBI told individuals interviewed that their information and views were being collected as intelligence and would be recorded and disseminated.

+ Full Document (PDF)

New ACLU Report Documents Destructive Impact of Prison Privatization

November 4, 2011 Comments off

New ACLU Report Documents Destructive Impact of Prison Privatization
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union today released a new report providing the first comprehensive analysis of the destructive impact of prison privatization.

The report, “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” traces the rise of the for-profit prison industry over the past three decades and shows how private prison companies have capitalized on the nation’s addiction to incarceration to achieve gigantic profits. All the while, the report shows, mass incarceration wreaks havoc on communities by unnecessarily depriving individuals of their liberty, draining government resources and bringing little or no benefit to public safety.

+ Full Report

ACLU Report Highlights Ways to Reduce State Budgets and Prison Populations

August 12, 2011 Comments off

ACLU Report Highlights Ways to Reduce State Budgets and Prison Populations
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

Bipartisan reforms in historically “tough on crime” states have significantly reduced incarceration rates, saved taxpayers billions of dollars, lowered crime rates and should be emulated nationwide, according to a new report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The report, “Smart Reform is Possible: States Reducing Incarceration Rates and Costs While Protecting Communities,” underscores the need for states to enact cost-effective and evidence-based policies that save states money and combat the nation’s addiction to incarceration. The nation’s pre-trial, sentencing and parole systems have made the U.S. the largest incarcerator in the world, hitting communities of color the hardest. One in 99 adults is living behind bars in the U.S., and though whites commit crimes at comparable rates and make up a majority of the country’s population, 60 percent of prison inmates are people of color.

+ Full Report

ACLU Report Calls for Radical Reforms to Combat Government Secrecy

August 1, 2011 Comments off

ACLU Report Calls for Radical Reforms to Combat Government Secrecy
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

In the years since 9/11 the United States government has spent over a trillion dollars on national security measures that have increased government secrecy exponentially. A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Drastic Measures Required,” illustrates the vast and systemic use of secrecy, including secret agencies, secret committees in Congress, a secret court and even secret laws, to keep government activities away from public scrutiny.

“Drastic Measures Required” highlights the significant powers Congress holds under the Constitution to stem the tide of government secrecy: the authority to regulate the military and national security activities, as well as the tools to investigate executive branch authorities. The report lays out specific recommendations for Congress to help turn the tide of excessive government secrecy – including reforming the misused state secrets privilege, strengthening congressional oversight of national security programs and enacting legislation to limit and regulate the executive branch’s classification power.

+ Full Report(PDF)

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