Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (9/2/2011)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 5:03pm

What major telecom company participated in warrantless wiretapping?

Which former leader has no regrets about Bush Administration torture policies?

What supposedly quick fix to public education deficiencies endangers the separation between church and state?

What group is entitled to due process according to a US Court of Appeals case from this week?

Who did NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg endanger by failing to prepare adequately for Hurricane Irene?

Don't Let Phone Companies Off the Hook: Demanding Accountability for Warrantless Wiretapping
In early 2006, news reports uncovered another front in the effort to expand the government’s ability to spy on Americans without evidence of any criminal activity. These reports indicated that the major phone companies, including AT&T, had cooperated with the federal government in spying on Americans without a warrant. It was revealed that the telecoms turned over to the government massive quantities of records on the telephone calls made by millions of consumers across the nation. Later we learned that included the communications not just the records.

Cheney Digs in on Legacy of Torture
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's brazenness is again on display this week as he promotes his new book In My Time. His comments in a recent interview coupled with excerpts from the book have served as a jarring reminder of the lack of accountability we've seen for the torture policies of the Bush administration.

School Vouchers Inflict More Harm Than Good
In communities across the country, a growing and influential group of private school advocates has been pushing school vouchers as a way of improving our public education system. But when you consider that vouchers have the potential to undermine the separation of church and state, have done little to improve student performance and divert desperately needed funding from public schools, they begin to look a lot less like an antidote and more like snake oil.

No Bond, No Bars
This week, the ACLU won an important victory on behalf of Cheikh Diop and hundreds of other detainees subjected to the government's practice of detaining immigrants for prolonged periods of time without bond hearings —sometimes for years on end — while they defend their legal rights to remain in the country. In Diop v. ICE, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that Mr. Diop's three-year long detention was unconstitutionally unreasonable and that Congress did not intend the immigration laws to allow detention beyond a 'reasonable period of time.'

Rikers Island Spared by Irene, But What About Next Time?
In a press conference last Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that, despite the impressive array of hurricane evacuations and preparatory plans implemented to protect New Yorkers in other low-lying areas, Rikers Island would not be evacuated. Luckily for all of us, Irene's sweep through New York was much less disastrous than anticipated. Rikers Island was spared, but we learned something disturbing: the Department of Corrections does not have a large scale evacuation plan in place for the 12,000-plus prisoners of Rikers. Understandably, this revelation caused a flurry of backlash from concerned advocates.

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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