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This Week in Civil Liberties (09/13/2013)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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September 13, 2013

According to government records, how many passengers crossing the border had their electronic devices searched without a warrant between October 2012 and August 2013?

FISA Court opinions released to the ACLU this week show that which government agency has violated court-imposed limits on its surveillance powers?

True or false: federal surveillance money is funneled into local government “black budgets” in order to purchase and implement surveillance technology.

What schools in your state have proposed single-sex education programs that treats students as stereotypes, rather than as individuals?

What might explain why presidents turn into hardcore defenders of the Security State?

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches

This week we released new government documents that provide rare insight into how the government uses its powers at the border to search and seize Americans’ electronic devices. The documents, obtained by our client David House as a result of his lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, demonstrate how the government is abusing its border search authority to evade constitutional restrictions on its surveillance powers. (You can see the documents here.)

NSA Releases FISA Court Opinions to ACLU

This Tuesday, the government declassified 14 documents relating to legal violations by the NSA’s spying program. The documents were released pursuant to an agreement in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in May 2011. The ACLU’s FOIA request seeks documents related to the government’s use and interpretation of the Patriot Act’s Section 215.

“These documents show that the NSA repeatedly violated court-imposed limits on its surveillance powers, and they confirm that the agency simply cannot be trusted with such sweeping authority,” said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

Does Your Local Government Have a “Black Budget,” Too?

As we learn more about how the NSA pays technology companies to comply with the Prism spying program, another mostly unnoticed pipeline moves billions of federal dollars from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to local governments for dragnet surveillance systems. These “black budgets” allow local governments to implement systems like video camera networks, automated license plate readers, and facial recognition technology. Federal surveillance money can even be used to purchase drones and tanks. As the scope of federal surveillance becomes clearer, all of us should take a hard look at federal surveillance grants to local communities, consider how they distort local democracy, and demand more civil liberties safeguards, oversight, and accountability.

Back to School Minus the Sex Stereotypes

Labor Day has come and gone, and the kids have gone back to school. And, fortunately, thanks, in part, to the Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes campaign, more students will be in classrooms where their teachers will get to know their individual learning styles rather than making assumptions about how they learn and what they’re interested in based solely on their sex.

What Makes Presidents Turn into Hardcore Defenders of the Security State? Seven Possible Explanations

It is undoubtedly true that some individuals within the national security state—the leadership—have great direct power to alter its character and direction. So why don’t they? Those individuals come from a wide variety of political and life backgrounds. But despite that fact, the overall behavior of the security establishment seems to be relatively consistent.

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