Blog of Rights

Drone ‘Nightmare Scenario’ Now Has A Name: ARGUS

Drone ‘Nightmare Scenario’ Now Has A Name: ARGUS

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:06am

The PBS series NOVA, “Rise of the Drones,” recently aired a segment detailing the capabilities of a powerful aerial surveillance system known as ARGUS-IS, which is basically a super-high, 1.8 gigapixel resolution camera that can be mounted on a drone. As demonstrated in this clip, the system is capable of high-resolution monitoring and recording of an entire city. (The clip was written about in DefenseTech and in Slate.)

In the clip, the developer explains how the technology (which he also refers to with the apt name “Wide Area Persistent Stare”) is “equivalent to having up to a hundred Predators look at an area the size of a medium-sized city at once.”

English as a First Language

English as a First Language

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 2:40pm

Sigh. As if we don’t have enough divisiveness in this country, a familiar subset of Congressional Republicans are trotting out yet another discriminatory bill papered over with hollow rhetoric about “unity,” “commonality”…

Pa. School District Pays $33,000 to Settle Cell Phone Search Lawsuit

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 3:34pm

On Wednesday, the ACLU of Pennsylvania settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of a former high school student, known as "N.N.," whose cell phone was confiscated and unconstitutionally searched by school officials.

The lawsuit charged…

Relax, It’s Not the Thought Police

Relax, It’s Not the Thought Police

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:19pm

I get paid to defend unpopular speech. And, I’m the first to jump at the slightest hint of government censorship or coercion in the free market of ideas, as our recent comments critical of the IRS’s plans to regulate non-partisan political speech…

ACLU Defends Nonprofit Free Speech

ACLU Defends Nonprofit Free Speech

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Sandra Fulton, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:01pm

Political speech regulation remains an incredibly complex and contentious issue in our government, and there is plenty of legitimate concern about the recent influx of big, outside money in modern campaigns.

Those concerns, however, must be…

Hamas, Twitter and the First Amendment

Hamas, Twitter and the First Amendment

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:25pm

With one major exception, the Roberts Court has been quite protective of unpopular (and even revolting) speech under the First Amendment. That exception, however, is a doozy. It involves a statute criminalizing “material support” for terrorism,…

Why Gene Patents Are Unlawful

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 11:46am

(Originally posted on ACSBlog.)

Last week the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's practice of granting patents on human genes - specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer. In the last 20 or so years the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has issued patents on thousands of human genes — the segments of DNA that we all have in our cells — giving private corporations, individuals, and universities the exclusive rights to those genetic sequences and their usage.

The patents on the BRCA genes are particularly broad and offensive. The PTO has granted Myriad Genetics, a private biotechnology company based in Utah, patents on both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic sequences, on any mutations along those genes, on any methods for locating mutations on the genes, without further specification on the type of methods, and on correlations between genetic mutations and susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.

The lawsuit charges, as critics of gene patents have argued for years, that gene patents stifle biomedical research and interfere with patients' access to genetic testing. The lawsuit argues that the patents on the BRCA genes are unconstitutional and invalid given the long-standing legal precedent that "products of nature" and "laws of nature" are not patentable. The suit also makes the novel argument that the practice of patenting genes, their correlations with disease, and the thought of comparing two genes violates the First Amendment and interferes with scientific freedom.

The Fight to Take Back Our Genes

Myriad Genetics’ Latest Attempt to Maintain Its Monopoly on Our Genes Rejected

By Sandra Park, ACLU at 11:02am

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling invalidating patents on human genes.  The case was brought by the ACLU, along with the Public Patent Foundation, on behalf of 20medical organizations, geneticists, health advocacy groups,…

Aerial view of the U.S. Patent Office building; Image source: Cliff/Flickr

Is the "Patent Happy" Patent Office Violating the First Amendment?

By Sandra S. Park, Staff Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 2:43pm

Last April, during the Supreme Court oral arguments in our case challenging patents on human genes, Justice Kagan remarked, "The PTO seems very patent happy." Her comment, and the unanimous decision invalidating gene patents, clearly expressed the…

International Organization Finds U.S. Violating the Rights of Protestors

International Organization Finds U.S. Violating the Rights of Protestors

By Allison Frankel, Criminal Law Reform Project, ACLU at 2:55pm

The right to peacefully assemble, enshrined both in the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law, is an intrinsic element of the democratic fabric of the United States. Yet according to a report released Friday by the Organization for Security…