Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (08/02/2013)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 3:47pm

Why should we care about metadata?

Which federal court ruled this week that the government can track your cell phone without a warrant?

Which state is set to execute a mentally ill man on Monday, despite the constitutional prohibition?

Which whistleblower was acquitted of aiding the enemy, but convicted of several violations of the Espionage Act this week?

Which politician broke his campaign promise that he would oppose new abortion restrictions when he signed the #motorcyclevagina bill?

My Life in Circles: Why Metadata is Incredibly Intimate

One of the most disingenuous arguments in the aftermath of the NSA spying revelations is that the American people shouldn't be concerned about the government hoovering up its sensitive information because it's only metadata--or a fancy way of saying data about the data.

"This is just metadata," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein assured the American people, referring to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans call records. "There is no content involved." President Obama and his national security officials have made similar assurances.

Feel better? You shouldn't and here's why.

Federal Appeals Court Rules the Government Can Track Your Cell Phone without a Warrant

It has long been the ACLU's position that the government must obtain a warrant based on probable cause before engaging in surveillance of people's historical cell phone location information. This week, we were dealt a setback. Over a strong dissent, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy over their location data. According to the court, law enforcement agents do not need to obtain a warrant to get this information, ruling instead that a less protective standard suffices.

Florida Will Kill Severely Mentally Ill Man Unless Supreme Court Intervenes

Unless the United States Supreme Court intervenes in the next few days, Florida will execute John Ferguson on August 5, despite a well-documented history of his psychosis spanning over 40 years.

Beyond Bradley Manning: The Government Has Made Its Point

The first thing to be said about Bradley Manning's trial is that the entire exercise was unnecessary. There was no real factual dispute, since Manning admitted he had leaked the documents to WikiLeaks, and he offered guilty pleas that would have allowed a sentence of up to 20 years.

Did the government think 20 years in prison was an insufficient punishment for Manning? Maybe so.

But the more likely explanation for the government's refusal of the plea is that it hoped to establish the dangerous precedent that leaks to the press could be equated with "aiding the enemy."

North Carolina's Badge of Dishonor

This week, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory broke his word and ignored his constituents when he signed the #motorcyclevagina bill, which includes sweeping anti-abortion provisions that could force clinics across the state to close.

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