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This Week in Civil Liberties (03/01/2013)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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March 1, 2013

What types of data can be pulled off of a seized iPhone by law enforcement agents using forensic analysis tools?

The U.S. Marshals Service experimented with what new surveillance tool, according to documents released this week?

What immigration program would infringe on Americans’ right to privacy and possibly mischaracterize millions of Americans as ineligible to work in the U.S.?

True or False: Congress could trim the budget by reducing the federal prison population.

To which legislative body did the ACLU submit a statement on the connection between over-policing of schools and the school-to-prison pipeline?

New Document Sheds Light on Government’s Ability to Search iPhones

Cell phone searches are a common law enforcement tool, but up until now, the public has largely been in the dark regarding how much sensitive information the government can get with this invasive surveillance technique. A document submitted to court in connection with a drug investigation, which we recently discovered, provides a rare inventory of the types of data that federal agents are able to obtain from a seized iPhone using advanced forensic analysis tools. The list, available here, starkly demonstrates just how invasive cell phone searches are—and why law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant before conducting them.

New Documents Reveal U.S. Marshals’ Drones Experiment, Underscoring Need for Government Transparency

The use of surveillance drones is growing rapidly in the United States, but we know little about how the federal government employs this new technology. Now, new information obtained by the ACLU shows for the first time that the U.S. Marshals Service has experimented with using drones for domestic surveillance.

E-Verify: Immigration Reform Cannot Come at the Expense of the Right to Privacy

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security held a hearing this week on E-Verify, which would create a huge database of every person eligible to work in America. Many members of Congress from both parties think a mandatory E-Verify system — along with ongoing increases in spending at the border—is a silver bullet for immigration enforcement. Right now it’s a voluntary system, but mandatory E-Verify would obligate all employers to run new hires through the system to verify electronically their eligibility to work in this country. That might sound reasonable – but the problem is that the E-Verify system is seriously flawed.

Sequestration Puts Spotlight on America’s Dangerously Overcrowded Federal Prisons

Talk about worrying about the symptom instead of the cause: Attorney General Eric Holder recently sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, warning of the devastating effect budget cuts will have on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) if sequestration moves forward.

Holder’s concerns are legitimate, but he’s not talking about the real problem: our federal prison population is completely out of control.

In the Name of School Safety, Let’s Not Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

This week, the House of Representatives took up the issue of school safety with a hearing in the House Education and Workforce Committee.

There is no question that school safety is a significant issue that needs to be effectively addressed. However, the ACLU is concerned that many of the solutions being proposed across the country involve increasing police presence in schools. Sadly, we have been down this road before, and history has proven that this approach is not only ineffective when it comes to preventing violence, but can actually harm kids in ways that lawmakers didn’t contemplate—by pushing them into the school to prison pipeline.

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