Blog of Rights

SPOT Off

SPOT Off

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 3:58pm

Lost in all the news about the NSA program this week was the release of a devastating report by the DHS Inspector General on the TSA’s SPOT program (first reported by the New York Times on Sunday). The new report underscores what a waste of money that program has been. After hiring 2,800 full-time staff and spending an estimated $878 million since FY 2007, the program remains deeply misguided not only in its very concept, but also in how it has been implemented.

SPOT (which stands for Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques) is the program that places “Behavior Detection Officers” (BDOs) near airport security lines, where by intrusively chatting with fliers, they will supposedly be able to detect “something amiss” that might suggest a passenger is planning a terrorist attack.

The program has always been ludicrous. In testimony at a 2011 congressional hearing on SPOT, psychologist Dr. Maria Hartwig summarized the decades of empirical research on the detection of deception, which is basically

"Joe's Law" Gets the Boot: A Lawyer for the Plaintiffs Explains

"Joe's Law" Gets the Boot: A Lawyer for the Plaintiffs Explains

By Andre Segura, Immigrants' Rights Project at 10:13am

Plaintiffs have established that the MCSO had sufficient intent to discriminate against Latino occupants of motor vehicles. Further, the Court concludes that the MCSO had and continues to have a facially discriminatory policy of considering…

Reflections of Another Affirmative Action Baby

Reflections of Another Affirmative Action Baby

By Cecillia Wang, ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project at 11:20am

As the Supreme Court takes up affirmative action once again, the word "diversity" has found its way into many legal briefs. For me, it is not an abstract concept. If today I am a supportive colleague, a successful civil rights lawyer, a good citizen…

Congress Takes Much Needed Step Forward on Over-Criminalization

Congress Takes Much Needed Step Forward on Over-Criminalization

By Alex Berger, Legislative Assistant, ACLU at 4:59pm

Earlier this month, a high school honors student named Kiera Wilmot was charged with felony discharge of a weapon on school property. Her crime? Creating her own science experiment.

When Kiera mixed several household chemicals together in a…

The Racial Wealth Accumulation Gap and Why  ACLU is Suing Morgan Stanley for Racial Discrimination

The Racial Wealth Accumulation Gap and Why ACLU is Suing Morgan Stanley for Racial Discrimination

By Greger Calhan, Legal Fellow, ACLU, Racial Justice Program at 8:07am

This month, the Urban Institute joined an emerging consensus of researchers and social scientists...

Immigration Enforcement Doesn't Belong in the Courthouse

Immigration Enforcement Doesn't Belong in the Courthouse

By Reverend Elmer Zavala Gonzalez, Minister Member of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery at 4:39pm

In a matter of minutes, I went from seeking justice, to bearing witness, to being racially profiled.

My youngest son who is 3 years old often accompanies me as I do my duties as a minister member of our Mid-Kentucky Presbytery in Louisville.…

The Promise and Hope of Detroit

The Promise and Hope of Detroit

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 11:19am

"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world", as Percy Bysshe Shelley put it. I was reminded of this power that poetry has to illuminate social and political realities while reading Jamaal May's "There are Birds Here." May was born and raised…

An Important Victory for Indian Tribes

An Important Victory for Indian Tribes

By Peter Beauchamp, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 1:20pm

This week, the ACLU won an important battle on the road toward protecting the rights of American Indian children and their parents and tribes. Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken of South Dakota's federal District Court ruled that a lawsuit filed by the ACLU…

Nelson Mandela’s Important Legacy for LGBT Movement

Nelson Mandela’s Important Legacy for LGBT Movement

By Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney, ACLU at 12:09pm

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." -- Nelson Mandela

On Thursday, the world mourned the death of former South African President and anti-apartheid…

Shopping While Black: Harms Go Deeper Than You Think

Shopping While Black: Harms Go Deeper Than You Think

By Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program at 12:03pm

Just in case we need reminders that too many people share the bias linking all black people with criminality, New York newspapers over the last two weeks were filled with stories of Black and Latino shoppers who were questioned and detained for suspicion…