Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties

By Katie Smith, ACLU at 7:07pm

Another busy week at the ACLU! Congress is keeping us busy on a few fronts. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get up-to-the-minute info.

The House has passed an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood of America. Targeted for providing abortion services, though those services are done without federal dollars, if Planned Parenthood loses all federal funding it will deny millions of men and women essential reproductive health care services. Support Planned Parenthood by tweeting with the #StandWithPP hashtag. Learn more >>
 
Facing a looming deadline, overblown doomsday stories, and a series of mostly bad options, the Senate gathered up its courage . . . to put off making a decision. On Tuesday, the Senate voted 86-12 to extend the Patriot Act as is for another three months. On Thursday, the House voted to concur 279-143 with the three month extension. That bill is now on its way to the president's desk.
 
Jose Padilla was arrested in March 2002, held without charge for two years in a South Carolina military brig without access to a lawyer, and was tortured to the point that brig authorities described his behavior (or lack thereof) as being "like a piece of furniture." Yesterday, the federal court judge ruled in the government's favor and dismissed Padilla's case. The ACLU's Ben Wizner, who argued the case, said, "The court today held that Donald Rumsfeld is above the law and Jose Padilla is beneath it." Learn more >>
 
Few things shock us here at the ACLU national office, but when a student from Virginia e-mailed us an image a few months ago, more than one of us gasped out loud. What the student saw when he tried to visit the website for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network from a computer at his school was a big old STOP sign, courtesy of the school's web filter. See what he saw >>
 
The ACLU and EFF have filed 3 motions: to overturn a federal court order requiring Twitter to turn over the private records of some of its users; to unseal court records concerning the government's attempts to collect these kinds of private records from Twitter and other companies; to unseal the original two motions and the hearing, which were initially sealed by the court.
TAKE ACTION: Thank You, Twitter!
 
In 1994, when the FBI decided it needed a push-to-listen surveillance system built into the telephone network, Congress obliged by passing the Communication Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), forcing the telecoms to rebuild their networks to be "wiretap ready." Seventeen years later, law enforcement wants to expand CALEA to include the Internet, claiming that its investigative abilities are "going dark" because people are increasingly communicating online.
 
More on the 14th: Anchoring Equal Protections
The 14th Amendment, enacted in 1868 to guarantee citizenship to newly freed slaves, has come under fire recently from anti-immigrant politicians. For nearly 150 years, this Amendment has protected all children born on U.S. soil – regardless of their race and ethnicity or the status of their parents. Now anti-immigrant legislators are putting forth needless, divisive measures to undo this great American tradition.
 
The South Dakota House of Representatives is considering a bill that would provide legal protection for committing murder in order to prevent conduct “likely to result in the death of” an embryo or fetus. The language of the bill is such that if a woman chooses to end a pregnancy, it would provide protection to her husband or boyfriend for killing the medical personnel involved: “justifiable homicide.”
 
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