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This Week in Civil Liberties (05/25/12)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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May 25, 2012

Which court has agreed to hear our case challenging the FISA Amendments Act, which authorizes NSA warrantless wiretapping?

The ACLU sent letters to school districts in which states regarding single-sex education programs thatpromote harmful sex stereotypes?

Members of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence met in secret this week, according to press reports, to approve legislation to extend what sweeping surveillance law?

Which government agency failed to follow a transparency law regarding law enforcement use of powerful surveillance tools?

What surveillance tools can be used for traffic enforcement?

Supreme Court Will Hear ACLU Case Challenging Warrantless Wiretapping Law

The Supreme Court has agreed this week to consider whether plaintiffs represented by the ACLU have the right to challenge the constitutionality of a controversial law that authorizes the National Security Agency to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international emails and phone calls.

Teach Kids Not Stereotypes

This week, we are sending demand letters to school districts in Florida, Maine, Virginia, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama insisting that they take steps to end single-sex programs that rely on and promote archaic and harmful sex stereotypes, and we’re launching a new campaign called Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes to drive the point home.

FISA Amendments Act is Back

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) rewrote our surveillance laws, which had generally required a warrant or court order for surveillance of people in the US. Under the FAA, the government can get a year-long programmatic court order for general bulk collection of Americans’ international communications without specifying who will be tapped.

The good news is that Congress had the foresight to subject this sweeping surveillance authority to a sunset provision, and it is scheduled to expire in its entirety at the end of the year. More concerning though is that, according to press reports, this week the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence secretly approved legislation to extend that law. No public hearings; no public oversight; no thorough debate about how this law has been used and how it has affected Americans.

ACLU Sues As DOJ Ignores Surveillance Transparency Law

This week the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the government to release statistics about its use of powerful electronic surveillance tools that law enforcement can use against any American simply by stating to a judge that it’s relevant to an investigation. The Department of Justice is required to disclose these statistics to Congress each year, yet routinely fails to do so. This week’s suit is an effort to compel the DOJ to follow the law (here are our complaint and our FOIA request).

Extreme Traffic Enforcement

For better or worse, speed limits are one area where our laws are out of synch with behavioral norms. Although almost everyone supports enforcement against genuinely dangerous behavior on the roads, many people who would almost never break other laws routinely violate speed limits. Technologies such as automatic license plate reading (ALPR) and drones mean that it is, or is about to be, technologically possible to engage in 100 percent enforcement of certain laws. Jay Stanley discusses the repercussions of such technology on American driving behavior.

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