Blog of Rights

This Week in Civil Liberties (9/28/2012)

By Rekha Arulanantham, ACLU at 2:19pm

Documents from which government agency show that federal law enforcement agencies now, more than ever, use “pen register” and “trap-and-trace” surveillance tools to track Americans’ electronic communications?

Which court did the ACLU ask this week to review a ruling on gene patenting?

A report by NYU and Stanford concludes that which government program has been “damaging and counterproductive” to the United States’ national security by turning the Pakistani public against U.S. policy?

Which state could save money and conserve police resources for more serious offenses by reducing its number of arrests for marijuana possession?

In which state is Terry Williams scheduled to be executed on Oct. 3, even after the attorney general of Pennsylvania, recommended that Williams’ life be spared?

New Justice Department Documents Show Huge Increase in Warrantless Electronic Surveillance

Justice Department documents released this week by the ACLU reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring Americans’ electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight or meaningful accountability.

The documents, handed over by the government, only after months of litigation, are the attorney general’s 2010 and 2011 reports on the use of “pen register” and “trap-and-trace” surveillance powers. The reports show a dramatic increase in the use of these surveillance tools, which are used to gather information about telephone, email, and other Internet communications.

Supreme Court: Liberate the Human Genome!

This week, we asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appellate court’s 2-1 ruling upholding patents on two human genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.  The case challenges patents that pose a serious barrier to using new discoveries in genetic testing and how genes influence the way cancers develop and can be treated.

NYU–Stanford Report Documents U.S. Government’s False Narrative on Drone Strikes

This Tuesday, researchers at the law schools of New York University and Stanford University published an important and comprehensively documented report about the human and strategic costs of the U.S. drone program in Pakistan. The report marshals research based on interviews of victims, witnesses, medical experts, and journalists in Pakistan, and a review of thousands of pages of documents and media reports, to arrive at its chief conclusions.

What if Wisconsin Arrested Half as Many People for Marijuana Possession?

Wisconsin and Minnesota are very similar states with very different approaches to marijuana possession. The two states have roughly the same number of people and similar demographics, but Wisconsin arrests twice as many people for marijuana possession. Which makes for an interesting question: what might happen if Wisconsin cut its marijuana possession arrests in half?

Child Predators, Cheating Prosecutors and Terry Williams: How Pennsylvania Is Poised to Execute a Victim of Horrific Sexual Violence Despite the State's Own Bad Acts

Here we go again – but, wait, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas or Florida, which have been known to execute individuals despite evidence supporting innocence and/or horrifying trauma histories and major mental health and intellectual deficits.  For the first time in more than a decade, Pennsylvania is planning an execution. Terry Williams is the first Pennsylvania death row prisoner in 50 years scheduled to be involuntarily executed in 50 years. It turns out it’s not just the South that denies people’s rights and kills them anyway. 

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