Blog of Rights

Rhetorical Support Is Not “Material Support”

Rhetorical Support Is Not “Material Support”

By Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 2:37pm
We Americans cherish few rights more than the right to speak our minds. And yet that right often comes under attack. Most recently, the federal government has used laws criminalizing the “material support” of foreign terrorist organizations to prosecute people who hold unpopular political views. Take the case of Tarek Mehanna, a native of Sudbury, Massachusetts.
How Many People Must Be Maimed or Killed Before We End the Militarization of Our Police Forces?

How Many People Must Be Maimed or Killed Before We End the Militarization of Our Police Forces?

By Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel, ACLU Center for Justice at 4:59pm

Yesterday, a grand jury in Habersham County, Georgia, decided not to bring charges against the police officers who threw a flashbang grenade into the crib of Bounkham Phonesavanh, known affectionately as "Baby Bou Bou." The explosion left a hole in…

Shouldn't You Be Able To See the Secret Surveillance Orders That Could Put You in Prison?

Shouldn't You Be Able To See the Secret Surveillance Orders That Could Put You in Prison?

By Ashley Gorski, Nadine Strossen Fellow, National Security Project, ACLU at 3:23pm

The Supreme Court is set to decide tomorrow whether it will hear a case concerning criminal defendants' right to see surveillance applications approved by the secret FISA court. The case, United States v. Daoud, has broad implications for the constitutional…

Painting of family riding in 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza

License Plate Scanners Also Taking Photos of Drivers and Passengers

By Sonia Roubini, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 10:01am

The Drug Enforcement Administration is using its license plate reader program not only to track drivers’ locations, but also to photograph these drivers and their passengers, according to newly disclosed records obtained by the ACLU via a Freedom…

ACLU to Court: Government Spying Invades Privacy of Each and Every American

ACLU to Court: Government Spying Invades Privacy of Each and Every American

By Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 5:03pm

Last night, we filed the opening brief in our lawsuit challenging the NSA’s ongoing collection of the call records of virtually everyone in the United States, including the ACLU’s. We’re asking the court for a preliminary injunction ordering…

This Prisoner's Note Isn't From Some Dystopian Dictatorship. It's From Texas.

This Prisoner's Note Isn't From Some Dystopian Dictatorship. It's From Texas.

By Amy Fettig, ACLU National Prison Project at 3:20pm

Every day from dusk to dawn there's noise, banging, clanking, yelling, screaming. Everyday someone is getting hurt or hurting themselves. Everyday there's fire and floods and complete chaos & hate…Every day is a challenge here. A challenge…

Heterosexuals Only: Sign of the Times?

Heterosexuals Only: Sign of the Times?

By Louise Melling, Director, Center of Liberty; Deputy Legal Director, ACLU at 11:13am

The Associated Press published a poll yesterday that reported many Americans say it's okay for wedding-related businesses to refuse to provide service to same-sex couples based on religious views.

Ouch. That amounts, in essence, to blessing…

For-Profit Companies Are Helping to Put People In Jail for Being Poor. I Should Know, I Was One of Them.

For-Profit Companies Are Helping to Put People In Jail for Being Poor. I Should Know, I Was One of Them.

By Kevin Thompson at 10:50am

In December, I was jailed for five days simply because I couldn't afford to pay $838 in traffic fines and fees to DeKalb County and a private probation company called Judicial Correction Services, Inc.

It sounds unbelievable, but that's exactly…

Juwan Wickware being interrogated

Only in America: 16-Year-Old Locked Up for the Rest of His Life

By Steven M. Watt, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Human Rights Program & Allison Frankel, Criminal Law Reform Project, ACLU at 4:37pm

Juwan Wickware wasn't the shooter. But he and more than 2,500 others nationwide will enter prison as teenagers, grow into adults, and die – all behind bars.

This is not right. The sentence must fit the crime, and we cannot throw…

"Drones" vs "UAVs" -- What's Behind A Name?

"Drones" vs "UAVs" -- What's Behind A Name?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:00am

Representatives of the drone industry and other drone boosters often make a point of saying they don’t like to use the word “drones.” When my colleague Catherine Crump and I were writing our drones report in 2011, we talked over what terminology we should use, and decided that since our job was to communicate, we should use the term that people would most clearly and directly understand. That word is “drones.”

Drone proponents would prefer that everyone use the term “UAV,” for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, or “UAS,” for Unmanned Aerial System (“system” in order to encompass the entirety of the vehicle that flies, the ground-based controller, and the communications connection that connects the two). These acronyms are technical, bland, and bureaucratic. That’s probably their principal advantage from the point of view of those who want to separate them from the ugly, bloody, and controversial uses to which they’ve been put by the CIA and U.S. military overseas.

I suppose there is a case to be made that domestic drones are a different thing from overseas combat drones. Certainly, there’s a wide gulf separating a $17 million Reaper drone armed with Hellfire missiles and a hand-launched hobbyist craft buzzing around somebody’s back yard. But drone proponents themselves would be the first to say that drones are a tool—one that can be used for many different purposes. They can be used for fun, photography, science, surveillance, and yes, raining death upon people with the touch of a button from across the world. Even the overseas military uses of drones vary, including not just targeted killing but also surveillance and logistics.

Putting aside well-founded fears that even domestically we may someday see the deployment of weaponized drones, in the end, the difference between overseas and domestic drones is a difference in how the same tool is used. Regardless of whether you’ve got a Predator, a Reaper, a police craft, or a $150 backyard hobby rotorcraft, that tool is what it is. What it is is a drone.

I can’t touch on this subject without quoting from George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which Orwell argued that bland and needlessly complicated language was a political act—a symptom of attempts to cover up