Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (10/19/2012)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 4:59pm

A federal court ruled yesterday against which law that had made approximately 120,000 married same-sex couples ineligible for all of them 1,000+ federal programs where marriage makes a difference?

Which court is considering whether surveillance harms us even when we can’t confirm we’re being watched?

What surveillance technology could be used to create a database to track everywhere you’ve ever driven in your car?

This week the ACLU argued at Guantánamo against the censorship of what atrocity?

Who did the ACLU thank this week for the State Department’s unwavering defense of basic free speech principles in the backlash over the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video?

In which state has an ACLU client’s sentence been converted from the death penalty to life in prison without parole?

DOMA Unconstitutional Again, and Heightened Scrutiny to Boot!

Yesterday, in Edie Windsor’s challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA violates the Constitution.  It’s the second federal appeals court to strike DOMA down, and it’s the first to rule that “heightened scrutiny” applies when the government discriminates against lesbians and gay men.

Does Surveillance Affect Us Even When We Can’t Confirm We’re Being Watched? Lessons From Behind the Iron Curtain

The main issue before the Supreme Court in Amnesty et al. v. Clapper, our challenge to the FISA Amendments Act, is whether the plaintiffs we are representing (a group of human rights, labor, legal, and media organizations whose work requires them to communicate with people outside the U. S.) even have standing to challenge the law. The government is arguing that since none of them can be certain they are subject to eavesdropping, they have no right to file suit. But, as we argue, even the possibility of eavesdropping harms these plaintiffs.

Police “Google Searches” Through Our Location History? No Thanks

Imagine a searchable database that would enable police or federal agents to instantly track everywhere you’ve ever driven in your car, like a “Google search” of your location over a period of months or even years. If the federal government’s seed funding of the surveillance camera boom over the past 10 years is any indication of where we are headed with license plate readers—and we have evidence to suggest a similar process is unfolding—we will get there soon enough.

Guantánamo Dispatch: ACLU Asks Judge Not to Censor Torture Testimony

The ACLU’s Hina Shamsi was at Guantánamo this week to argue the ACLU’s constitutional challenge to the censorship of torture in the military commissions.

The Guantánamo military commissions were created in part to hide the government’s illegal torture program while permitting the use of information obtained through torture. Because of improvements in 2009 in the law governing the commissions, it’s harder (though not impossible) for coerced evidence to be used in the proceedings. But the government still wants to hide what it did to prisoners in CIA and military custody.

ACLU Backs Strong Speech Stance After “Muslims” Video Backlash

The ACLU sent a letter this week to the State Department thanking Secretary Clinton for the department’s unwavering defense of basic free speech principles in the backlash over the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video. While the video was blamed for riots, violence, and unrest in many countries, the Obama administration stayed strong against calls at home and abroad to take down the video (though it did, rightly, receive some criticism for “asking” Google to take another look at whether the video violated the company’s terms of service).

VICTORY! One Less Person Faces Execution in Alabama

One less person faces possible death at the hands of Alabama’s arbitrary capital punishment system, after the state agreed to stop seeking the death penalty for ACLU client LaSamuel Gamble late last week. Gamble, who has been on death row for nearly 16 years, was resentenced to life in prison without parole.

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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