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This Week in Civil Liberties (11/30/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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November 30, 2012

The Feinstein Amendment to which bill on indefinite detention looks like a fix, but would actually cause more harm?

The ACLU requested information from federal agencies this week on whether certain privacy-enhancing tools actually expose you to warrantless surveillance?

What military policy, challenged this week by the ACLU, categorically excludes women from more than 200,000 military positions that are open to men?

The labeling problems of federal drug laws and mandatory minimum sentencing for people even for those who played minor, nonviolent roles in “drug trafficking” disproportionately affects what demographic?

In which state were false confessions, junk science, and prosecutorial misconduct used to obtain convictions of the West Memphis Three?

Don’t Be Fooled by New NDAA Detention Amendment

The Senate is once again debating the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and is within a day or two of voting yet again on the issue of indefinite detention without charge or trial in the United States.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced an amendment that superficially looks like it could help, but in fact, would cause harm. Feinstein was a forceful leader last year against the NDAA detention provisions and believes that she is doing the right thing this year. But the problem is that the actual text of her amendment is bad.

Does Using Certain Privacy Tools Expose You to Warrantless NSA Surveillance? ACLU Files FOIA to Find Out

Can using privacy-enhancing tools (such as Tor or a Virtual Private Network) actually expose you to warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency? This week, the ACLU sent off four FOIA requests to federal agencies in order to try and answer this question.

Women Warriors Are On the Battlefield. Eliminate Outdated, Unfair Military Combat Exclusion Policy

The ACLU filed a lawsuit this week challenging the military’s combat exclusion policy.

The policy makes it that much harder for people to see someone’s abilities, and instead reinforces stereotypes about gender. It creates the pervasive way of thinking in military and civilian populations that women can’t serve in combat roles, even in the face of the reality that servicewomen in all branches of the military are already fighting alongside their male counterparts. They shoot, they return fire, they drag wounded comrades to safety, they engage the enemy, and they have been doing these heroic deeds since the Revolutionary War. They risk their lives for their country, and the combat exclusion policy does them a great disservice.

The Reality of Federal Drug Sentencing

Today, almost everyone convicted of a federal drug crime is convicted of “drug trafficking,” which more often than not results in at least a five- or 10-year mandatory prison sentence. That’s a lot of time for many people who are minor parts of the drug trade, the vast majority of whom are men and women of color.

New Film Highlights the Gross Injustices of the West Memphis Three Case

In June 1993, Damien Echols, 18, Jason Baldwin, 16, and Jessie Misskelley, 17, who would come to be known as the “West Memphis Three,” were wrongfully arrested for the murders of three young boys in the small Arkansas town of West Memphis, just across the Tennessee border. A new, powerful documentary, West of Memphis, tells the story from the defense team’s perspective as the prosecution’s case against the three teenagers unravels.

West of Memphis highlights many of the problems that plague our criminal justice system not only in Arkansas, but across the country: the use of false confessions, junk science, and prosecutorial misconduct to obtain convictions and a death sentence. The list goes on and on.

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