Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (10/21/2011)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 5:53pm

Who said the police don't need a warrant to demand cell phone location records of innocent citizens not even suspected of crime?

When was the last time Congress updated electronic privacy law?

Who violated the NAACP's right to free speech?

Which department is still discriminating against homosexual service members despite the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

What bill will ensure that citizens will not be treated as criminals based on their racial or ethnic heritage?

D.C. Judge: Government Doesn't Need a Warrant to Demand Cell Phone Location Information
These days, most people carry a cell phone with them everywhere they go: to work, to church, on vacation, and more. And cell phone carriers may capture and retain records of your location even when you're not using your phone. Does that mean that the government can simply demand these records from your carrier without a warrant? Unfortunately, according to Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court, the answer to that question is 'yes.'

Want to Read My Email? Not Without a Warrant.
Congress hasn't updated our basic electronic privacy law since 1986, long before most Americans sent their first email. So, it's no surprise that our privacy protections haven't kept pace with new technological advancements. The current law even allows the government to read virtually all of our emails without a warrant. This extraordinary power is an egregious violation of the privacy Americans rightly expect.

Read more posts from commemorating ECPA's 25th birthday >>

Free Speech at the Airport: The Government Can't Selectively Silence Viewpoints
This week, the ACLU, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the NAACP filed a lawsuit against Philadelphia, which violated the First Amendment when it refused to accept an NAACP advertisement in the city's airport. The ad is part of a campaign to promote changes in the criminal justice and education systems. The lawsuit also names as a defendant Clear Channel Outdoor, which handles advertising for the airport.

Gay Veterans Will Have Their Day in Court
We may be a few months out from the new year, but it's safe to say the demise of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will be marked as a highlight of 2011. The end of that discriminatory statute and its demeaning implications to the men and women who serve our country is something to be celebrated. But even though DADT is gone, the legacy of unfair treatment of gay and lesbian veterans continues.

That includes the Defense Department's separation pay policy for discharged service members. If you serve six years in the military and are then discharged involuntarily, Congress says you're entitled to separation pay to help ease your transition to civilian life. But the DOD has an internal policy — not required by any statute — of cutting that separation pay in half if you're discharged, even honorably, for "homosexuality."

The Three Faces of Racial Profiling: The ACLU Connects the Dots
Before there was even a name for it, racial profiling has been ingrained in our country's law enforcement practices. But racial profiling not only goes against our Constitution and our country's value for equality — it also hinders law enforcement officials from doing an effective job.

For years, many of our political leaders have vowed to put an end to racial profiling. Attorney General Eric Holder has made it clear that ending the practice of racial profiling is a "priority" for the Obama administration. And certain members of Congress have echoed that sentiment, by introducing S. 1670, the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011, in the Senate on Oct. 6. The law also will be reintroduced in the House, and should receive bipartisan support.

Read more from our blog series, The Three Faces of Racial Profiling >>

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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