Back to News & Commentary

This Week in Civil Liberties (03/08/2013)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
Share This Page
March 8, 2013

Nine-year-old Aiyana Jones was mistakenly killed by local police after they used what weapon of war?

Which private prison company fabricated facts on prisoner abuse and doctored its own Wikipedia page to fight bad publicity?

Which state overrode its governor’s veto and instituted a ban on abortions after 12 weeks – the most extreme abortion ban in the country?

Is your state moving forward to protect your privacy against domestic drone surveillance?

How many members of Congress have filed a brief in support of ACLU plaintiff Edie Windsor’s challenge to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act?

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

Nine-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 – immediately set fire to Aiyana’s blanket. Seconds later, the SWAT team stormed through the door, and confused by the deafening and blinding effects of the “flashbang,” mistakenly shot Aiyana through the neck, killing her. Aiyana’s sad story is just one piece of evidence showing that our state and local police departments are becoming increasingly militarized – too often with devastating consequences.

Private Prison Company Doctors Its Own Wikipedia Page and Fabricates Facts to Fight Bad Publicity

Recently, for-profit prison corporation GEO Group announced that it had secured the naming rights to the football stadium at Florida Atlantic University in exchange for a $6 million “donation” to the University’s athletic program. Horrified to be associated with GEO’s shameful record of prisoner abuse and neglect, students and faculty quickly rallied against the decision – and both the school and GEO Group were thrust into a national spotlight.

But this blog post isn’t about FAU’s decision to promote GEO. It’s about GEO’s reaction to being thrust into the light of public scrutiny.

Arkansas Passes Most Extreme Abortion Ban in the Nation

This week the most severe abortion ban in the country passed in Arkansas. This is a sad week, not only for the women and families of Arkansas, but for women across the country.

This afternoon, the Arkansas House voted to override Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto of a bill that would ban most abortions after 12 weeks, just days after the state Senate also voted to do so, making the bill law.

Drone Legislation: What’s Being Proposed in the States?

It’s a race to see which state will be the first to pass legislation governing domestic drone use. Coming out of the gate first was Florida, which passed a bill through several committees in the Senate back in January. This is notable since the Florida legislature didn’t officially convene until March 5—they thought this issue was so important that they moved the bill during their committee organizing sessions. Then Montana pulled up from behind, passing two drones bills all the way through their Senate by mid-February. But, Virginia raced ahead, sending two bills to their governor’s desk by the beginning of March, where they currently await signature.

Historic Shift in Congress against DOMA Mirrors Shift in Public Opinion in Favor of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

Last Friday, 212 members of Congress, 172 representatives and 40 senators filed an historic brief in support of Edie Windsor’s challenge to the discriminatory and unconstitutional so-called Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) exclusion of married same-sex couples from marriage-based federal responsibilities and rights. This amicus brief stands in dramatic contrast to the overwhelming support for DOMA when it was passed by Congress in 1996.

Learn more about your civil liberties: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.