This Week in Civil Liberties

This week, our own Robyn Shepherd shared a hair-raising personal story of street harassment on the blog for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Next week, we'll release a know-your-rights fact sheet for students about how to deal sexual assault and other gender-based violence in school. It'll outline your rights and your school's responsibilities to its students under the law, including what schools should not do in responding to gender-based violence.

This week brought the very disappointing news that the Obama administration has brought charges against Abd al-Rahim Abdul al-Nashiri, accused conspirator in the U.S.S. Cole bombing, in the broken military commissions. While in U.S. custody, Al-Nashiri was waterboarded, deprived of sleep, strung from the ceiling by his arms while they were tied behind his back and subjected to mock executions. According to news reports, much of the evidence that will be used to prosecute al-Nashiri is based on hearsay or is circumstantial, and would be inadmissible in a federal court. Even worse, the government seeks the death penalty against him.

And just yesterday, iPhone users among us were dismayed to learn that Apple has been keeping track of users’ locations and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the phone. We don't know what triggers this data collection or why Apple is gathering it, and no one's figured out a way to turn it off.

In related privacy news, yesterday we blogged about a congressional hearing in which the Justice Department was asked whether it should be permitted to read people's email, text messages and other electronic communications without a warrant. The clear answer to this question should have been "no." But instead, the DOJ just kind of shrugged. Which makes us wonder: does the Obama administration believe it should be able to read our text messages and emails without a warrant?

Just A Smack On The Ass: A Tale Of Sexual Assault, Vengeance And Nervous Swearing
To know Robyn Shepherd (and to follow her amazing Twitter feed) is to love her. Her blog post about street harassment this week was tweeted by Forbes Woman and the amazing Katha Pollitt, reposted on Alternet and Hollaback, and featured on Stop Street Harassment. If you haven't read it…what are you waiting for?

iPhone? More Like iSpy!
Ateqah Khaki is obsessed with her iPhone, so she was pretty dismayed to learn that it's been logging her movements since the day she got it. Tell Apple (and Yahoo, and Google, and all the other tech companies you rely on) to respect your privacy!

Does the Government Want to Read Your Texts and Emails?
A warrant has been required for postal mail since at least the 1870s and for telephone conversations since the 1960s. Why shouldn't our email receive the same protection?

Massachusetts High Court Limits Police Searches in Small Marijuana Cases
In a big victory for marijuana decriminalization this week, our Criminal Law Reform Project successfully convinced the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that police can no longer search and seize someone for possessing a small amount of marijuana. By passing Question 2 with 65 percent of the vote in 2008, Massachusetts voters clearly signaled they no longer want police harassing marijuana users or using limited law enforcement resources to combat minor, non-violent drug use. It’s good to know the state’s highest court is listening.

Wichita Blues: Kansas Mandates Photo ID For Its Voters
Voter ID laws are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. And yet, 32 state legislatures are considering bills to crack down on this phantom problem with voter ID bills. Kansas passed a draconian voter ID law this week, and we tell you how it'll gouge Kansas taxpayers and is a step backwards for democracy.

This is your week in civil liberties. Let us know if this is useful or if you'd like to see changes. Share your thoughts:

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I can't support any one that is atheistic and wants to do away with the 10 commandments.


... Or who uses proper grammar, for that matter.

Anon Mouse

The ACLU supports freedom of religion. That includes Christianity and the right to be atheist.

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