Blog of Rights

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 National Security 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 the government to stop collecting our data and to bar any use of the ACLU call records it already has collected.
Is it Legal to Photograph or Videotape Police?

Is it Legal to Photograph or Videotape Police?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:35am

Taking photographs and video of things that are plainly visible in public spaces is a constitutional right.

Working to End Racial Profiling: ACLU to Testify Before Senate Judiciary

Working to End Racial Profiling: ACLU to Testify Before Senate Judiciary

By Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, ACLU at 2:24pm

Racial profiling is based on crass stereotypes and assumptions, instead of facts, evidence and good solid police work.

Invasion of the Data Snatchers: Big Data and the Internet of Things Means the Surveillance of Everything

Invasion of the Data Snatchers: Big Data and the Internet of Things Means the Surveillance of Everything

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project & Matthew Harwood, Media Strategist, ACLU at 11:18am

This piece originally ran at TomDispatch.com.

Estimates vary, but by 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in…

If You Want To Fit In At This Public School Just Become Christian

If You Want To Fit In At This Public School Just Become Christian

By Scott Lane at 3:43pm

Like many people I have encountered who were raised in a Christian environment, I was indifferent to what I felt were minor infractions of the law that protects the separation of church and state. What's the big deal if teachers promote God in public…

15-Year-Old Gets Six Life Sentences?

15-Year-Old Gets Six Life Sentences?

By Alex Stamm, ACLU Center for Justice at 1:27pm

At gunpoint, two 18-year-olds and a 15-year-old robbed a dozen other teenagers at a house party, taking money, phones, and marijuana. No shots were fired, but one of the 18-year-olds struck someone with the butt of his gun.

The crime is unquestionably…

Local Police, Armed with the Weapons of War, Too Often Mistakenly Shoot and Kill

Local Police, Armed with the Weapons of War, Too Often Mistakenly Shoot and Kill

By Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel, ACLU Center for Justice & Sarah Solon, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 2:52pm

Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was sleeping on the couch next to her grandmother when a SWAT team threw a “flashbang” through the window of her Detroit, Michigan home. The “flashbang” – a stun grenade originally developed for wartime raids –…

"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