Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties

By Jessica Monaco, ACLU at 6:22pm

The theme this week was "without": combating the spread of AIDS without actual tools and information to combat the spread of AIDS, searches without warrants, protections for business without protections for everybody else, government bureaucracy without privacy or security, accessing medical marijuana without federal government interference, sentencing without (or at least with a lot less) unfairness. That last one is good, the rest not so much....

Obama DOJ Leaves Medical Marijuana Patients Sick and Suffering
On Wednesday, the Obama Justice Department issued a new memo to all U.S. Attorneys clarifying the DOJ's position on federal prosecutions of state-sanctioned medical marijuana use. The new policy is disastrous for patients and undermines states' efforts to set up carefully regulated distribution systems designed to help sick people get their medicine while preventing fraud and abuse.

Warrantless GPS Tracking Case Heads to Supreme Court
On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it will consider whether the government may plant GPS devices on vehicles to track people without judicial supervision. In the case, United States v. Jones, the FBI and Washington, D.C., police attached a GPS device to Antoine Jones’ car and tracked his movements continuously for a month. This case provides an excellent opportunity for the Court to recognize that 24-7 GPS tracking is so intrusive that it should be prohibited under the Bill of Rights except when authorized by a court based on probable cause to believe that criminal activity is afoot.

Supreme Court Term Is Pro-Business and Pro-Free Speech
The Supreme Court ended the 2010 term this week, delivering the much-anticipated decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a case that challenged California's ban of the sale of violent video games to minors. In a 7-2 decision, the Court found the state's law violated the First Amendment. The Court called California's attempt to put video games in a new category not protected by the First Amendment "unpersuasive."

Groups Ask: "Please Protect Our Privacy from E-Verify"
Citing a variety of privacy concerns, a broad coalition of advocacy groups from across the political spectrum including libertarians, consumer groups and privacy advocates sent letters to both the House and Senate Monday opposing a mandatory E-Verify system. Problems with the system include increased identity theft and the danger of a national ID system. The letters include a full list of signatories and in-depth description of the privacy problems with the legislation.

Justice Is Served
Thursday was an exciting day for the ACLU and criminal justice advocates around the country. Following much thought and careful deliberation, the United States Sentencing Commission took another step toward creating fairness in federal sentencing by retroactively applying the new Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) guidelines to individuals sentenced before the law was enacted. This decision will help ensure that over 12,000 people — 85 percent of whom are African-Americans — will have the opportunity to have their sentences for crack cocaine offenses reviewed by a federal judge and possibly reduced.

God Will Protect You From Sexual Temptation...Or Not
God will protect you from sexual temptation. That's what is being taught in Africa, with U.S. federal tax dollars, to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. But that's not all. In Africa, and other places, government dollars have provided millions of dollars to organizations to teach abstinence-only-until-marriage programs complete with explicitly Christian teachings.

This is your week in civil liberties. Let us know if this is useful or if you'd like to see changes. Share your thoughts: ideas@aclu.org

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