Freedom of Expression

VIDEO: 'We Steal Secrets' Director Discusses WikiLeaks, Manning, and More With the ACLU

VIDEO: 'We Steal Secrets' Director Discusses WikiLeaks, Manning, and More With the ACLU

By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 10:13am

Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director of the new documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” joined the ACLU’s Ben Wizner to talk whistleblowers, accountability, and government efforts to plug leaks.

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The start of the Bradley Manning trial this week comes against the backdrop of a broader crackdown on journalists and their sources, who play a critical role in exposing the government’s growing arsenal of secrets. Gibney and Wizner discuss the charges against Manning, and whether recent investigations—including both those against Fox News reporter James Rosen and WikiLeaks—indicate a creeping criminalization of the journalistic activity that is critical for a healthy democracy.

The result, as “We Steal Secrets” demonstrates—as does “Taxi to the Dark Side,” Gibney’s Oscar-winning documentary exploring the Bush administration’s torture regime—is an erosion of the mechanisms designed to make government both transparent and accountable for its mistakes and even crimes. Gibney asks, “Within the context of a government that’s making everything secret, there comes a point where, if there aren’t leaks, then how are we to hold the government ever to account?”

(WikiLeaks, for its part, took issue with its portrayal in “We Steal Secrets”—read some of the organization’s objections here.)

Responding to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus on Leaks and Shield Laws

Responding to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus on Leaks and Shield Laws

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 3:11pm

Washington Post national security reporter Walter Pincus has recently written several columns criticizing the press and First Amendment advocates...

Standing Up for the Rights of Students to Free Expression

Standing Up for the Rights of Students to Free Expression

By Mary Beth Tinker at 11:39am

I have zero tolerance for schools that punish students for exercising their First Amendment rights. Students like Wesley Teague, who joked about his school's athletic department and Kyron Birdine, who was suspended for mocking standardized tests, did…

AP Phone Records Scandal Highlights a Broader Problem: Lack of Checks and Balances on Government Access to Records

AP Phone Records Scandal Highlights a Broader Problem: Lack of Checks and Balances on Government Access to Records

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 11:36am

Last week we learned that the Department of Justice, in an unprecedented intrusion on the work of journalists, had obtained records for twenty telephone numbers belonging to the Associated Press or its reporters, spanning April and May 2012. The telephone records obtained do not include the content of phone calls, but they likely reveal the phone number of each and every caller on those lines for a period of weeks and, therefore, the identity of scores of confidential media sources.

The seizure of these records came to light only because the government has a special set of guidelines that require it to notify any media organization of a subpoena for its records within (at most) 90 days. The AP appears to have learned of the seizure of its phone records, albeit after the fact, only because of this special policy.

The notice given to the AP has generated a healthy debate over the limits on the government’s authority to acquire our telephone and internet records. But what if you aren’t a media organization and, therefore, do not benefit from the special government policy entitling you to notice when the government obtains your telephone or internet records? What information can the government get about you, and is it even required to tell you when it does so?

DOJ's AP Phone Logs Grab Highlights Renewed Need for Shield Law

DOJ's AP Phone Logs Grab Highlights Renewed Need for Shield Law

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:31pm

Update: The administration has asked Sen. Schumer to reintroduce the Free Flow of Information Act, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) just announced that he will do so in the House, and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) introduced a similar bill today. The administration…

IRS Abuses Power in Targeting Tea Party

IRS Abuses Power in Targeting Tea Party

By Michael Macleod-Ball, Chief of Staff, ACLU Washington Legislative Office & Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 9:58am

The extraordinary revelation this week that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups for more aggressive enforcement highlights exactly why caution is needed in any response to the much-vilified Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

"Ag-Gag" Not Just About Animal Welfare

"Ag-Gag" Not Just About Animal Welfare

By Gabe Rottman, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 9:54am

A story out of Utah this week neatly showcased the rising concerns among civil liberties and press freedom groups around so-called "ag-gag" laws, which, in various ways, make it illegal to document animal abuse on factory farms and other agricultural…

Anti-Prostitution Pledge Puts Free Speech at Risk

Anti-Prostitution Pledge Puts Free Speech at Risk

By Mie Lewis, Women's Rights Project at 12:10pm

Yesterday, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Supreme Court in a case called United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, opposing the so-called "Anti-Prostitution Pledge." The Pledge is a…

A Reality Check on Newtown: We Must Move Forward, Not Back

A Reality Check on Newtown: We Must Move Forward, Not Back

By Alex Berger, Legislative Assistant, ACLU at 3:29pm

I, like most Americans, watched in horror as the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfurled last December. As a former elementary school teacher, I could not stop seeing my former students as possible victims, and I was angry, confused, and eager…

Twitter Subpoenas Chill Free Speech; Latest Example is in San Francisco

Twitter Subpoenas Chill Free Speech; Latest Example is in San Francisco

By Linda Lye, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 4:52pm

In a disturbing trend that can have a chilling effect on free speech, law enforcement agencies around the country are seeking wide-ranging information about the social networking activity of political activists. The San Francisco District Attorney…

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