Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (03/07/2014)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 3:38pm

True or false: a police department in Florida failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the manufacturer asked them to keep it under wraps.

Edward Snowden will appear via live video next Monday at what film, interactive, and music festival for his first conversation in front of an audience since he blew the whistle on NSA dragnet surveillance?

The ACLU and Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law sent a letter requesting what government agency investigate abusive debt collection practices?

How many American citizens has the United States killed as part of its “targeted killing” program?

What private prison company’s operation of the Idaho Correctional Center is characterized by lying, cheating, and gross incompetence?

What entertainer and activist has taken up the fight against mass incarceration as an ACLU Ambassador?

Police Hide Use of Cell Phone Tracker from Courts Because Manufacturer Asked

It appears that at least one police department in Florida has failed to tell judges about its use of a cell phone tracking device because the department got the device on loan and promised the manufacturer to keep it all under wraps. But when police use invasive surveillance equipment to surreptitiously sweep up information about the locations and communications of large numbers of people, court oversight and public debate are essential. The devices, likely made by the Florida-based Harris Corporation, are called “stingrays,” and unfortunately this is not the first time the government has tried to hide their use.

Edward Snowden to Talk Privacy With the Tech Community at SXSW

In his first conversation in front of an audience since his disclosures began making global headlines last year, Edward Snowden will appear via live video next Monday at SXSW Interactive, the festival that brings together tens of thousands of technology professionals and enthusiasts every year in Austin. He'll be talking to the ACLU's Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian.

Time for the Feds to Step In: Illegal and Abusive Debt Collection Threatens to Exacerbate Racial Inequality

In 2012, a pregnant woman in Colorado was arrested and jailed after being pulled over for a traffic violation. The reason? A debt collector went to court for a warrant for her arrest—not because she committed any crime, but because she apparently had not answered written questions in a proceeding to collect unpaid credit card debt. Her bond was set at $5,806—an exorbitant sum that just so happened to be the full amount of the debt she owed plus interest. Unable to pay, the woman spent a night in jail in yet another modern twist on the banned practice of debtors' prisons.

Death Without Due Process

The White House is once again weighing whether to kill an American citizen overseas as part of its "targeted killing" program.

This extrajudicial killing program should make every American queasy. Based on largely secret legal standards and entirely secret evidence, our government has killed thousands of people. At least several hundred were killed far from any battlefield. Four of the dead are Americans. Astonishingly, President Obama's Justice Department has said the courts have no role in deciding whether the killing of U.S. citizens far from any battlefield is lawful.

Is CCA Guilty?

The Idaho Correctional Center in Boise, Idaho, is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit operator of private prisons in the US, with revenue for the last quarter of $431.10 million. ICC represents the perfect storm of what can go wrong in the private prisons system.

We Must Stop Throwing People Away

There is a crisis that demands our urgent attention. For the last four decades, this country has been obsessed with expanding the number of people we throw behind bars and the length of time we hold them there. Crime rates have been falling for the last 20 years, but still we have a massive and unsustainable prison population, particularly targeting the poor and powerless. We're not strengthening communities, we're using our criminal justice system to throw away certain people's lives – disproportionately the lives of Black and brown men, women, and children. This has decimated communities around the nation and it's gone on for far too long.

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