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This Week in Civil Liberties

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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July 19, 2013

How many pages of police documents did the ACLU analyze as part of its report on license plate tracking?

This week, Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director, testified before which House committee against the NSA spying program?

Human rights experts are calling on the U.S. to respect the right to asylum of which whistleblower?

In which state is the ACLU challenging a discriminatory voter ID law?

In which state did a jury find George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin?

Police Documents on License Plate Scanners Reveal Mass Tracking

This week, the ACLU released more than 26,000 pages of documents from police departments in cities and towns across the country on the most widespread location tracking technology you’ve probably never heard of. Mounted on patrol cars or stationary objects like bridges, they snap photos of every passing car, recording their plate numbers, times, and locations. At first the captured plate data was used just to check against lists of cars law enforcement hoped to locate for various reasons (to act on arrest warrants, find stolen cars, etc.). But increasingly, all of this data is being fed into massive databases that contain the location information of many millions of innocent Americans, stretching back for months or even years.

ACLU on the Hill: NSA Surveillance “Intrusive and Unconstitutional”

This Wednesday, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer testified before the House Judiciary Committee on why the recently revealed NSA spying programs are unconstitutional and what Congress can do to rein in these unlawful and intrusive programs.

U.S. Government Must Heed Call of Human Rights Experts Worldwide to Respect Snowden’s Right to Seek Asylum

For those following the saga of Edward Snowden, it has been a remarkable week, with major human rights actors all over the world lining up to call on the United States to respect his right, enshrined in international law, to seek asylum. Last Friday, Mr. Snowden held a highly publicized meeting with several human rights groups and asked for their assistance in calling on the United States to respect his right, enshrined in international law, to seek asylum. He accused the U.S. government of engaging in actions threating “the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.”

Trusting Law Enforcement after the Trayvon Tragedy

The fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012, while not the first act of senseless violence of its kind, evoked a wide array of emotions including sadness, anger, and fear. For many Americans, hearing the verdict last weekend felt like a punch in the stomach right in the same place that was still healing around his untimely and puzzling death.

Since “not guilty” was heard in Florida last Saturday night, thousands of people from New York to San Francisco have taken to the streets expressing hurt, frustration, and disappointment. Hurt, frustration, and disappointment because of why Trayvon was pursued in the first place, and at whether or not there will be a day when people of color–particularly Black families–will ever put their trust into the criminal justice system.

Photo ID Law on Trial in Pennsylvania: What’s at Stake for Our Democracy

This week the ACLU was back in court to ask that the photo ID law be blocked permanently, as it is an unnecessary and unjustifiable burden on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed under the Pennsylvania State Constitution. We argued that not only does the state photo ID law fall far short of the constitutional promise that elections be “free and equal,” but it also fails to pass the “common sense” test.

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