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This Week in Civil Liberties (12/14/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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December 14, 2012

A spying program run by what agency allows the government unprecedented surveillance powers to collect and analyze information on innocent American citizens?

In which state do politicians need a reminder that saving a woman’s life must be every hospital’s first priority?

A subcommittee in which legislative house held the first-ever congressional hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline?

Can a civilian find enough information to build a surveillance or armed drone by searching the terms “DIY” and “drone”?

True or False? The Obama administration has established a weak record on immigration and border enforcement.

Vast New Spying Program Was Started in Secret on a Bogus Pretext

The Wall Street Journal this published an in-depth review of a new, relatively unknown spying program run by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Although we have been warning about the dangers of the program for months, and ACLU Legislative Counsel Chris Calabrese testified before Congress about the issue in July, the Journal’s story conveys how controversial the program was even inside the government. It also describes the broad scope of new surveillance authority the government is granting itself.

Why Are Michigan Politicians Adopting Ireland’s Deadly Abortion Policy?

By now, most of us have read (and wept over) the tragic story of Savita Halappanavar — the woman an Irish hospital let die rather than provide the abortion she needed to save her life. News of her death has generated outrage across the globe and a call from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Irish government to ensure that women are protected.

And now, politicians in Michigan are telling hospitals it is okay if they treat a pregnant woman exactly like the Irish hospital treated Savita. Under a bill passed on Thursday by the Michigan Senate (while the public was locked out of the Capitol, but that is another story), a hospital that refuses on religious grounds to provide appropriate care to a pregnant woman facing an emergency will get a free pass from the state. Yes, you heard that right: The hospital can’t lose its license. It won’t be at a risk of a fine. It won’t even have to face a lawsuit from the woman’s grieving family. Nope, the hospital can let a pregnant woman die and get off scot-free.

Groundbreaking Senate Hearing Shines a Light on the School-to-Prison Pipeline

This week, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a landmark hearing entitled, Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline. It is the first time a congressional panel has looked at this disturbing national trend where children are pushed out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems because of an overreliance on punitive school discipline policies.

The DIY Armed Drone

ACLU Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley was on a radio show earlier this week ( “Your Call” on KALW, a public radio station in San Francisco) when a man called in to tell how he had successfully built his own armed drone, using commercially available equipment. He did not use a real gun, but a paintball gun (many paintball guns are comparable to real guns in weight).

The Truth about the Current State of Immigration Enforcement

On Monday, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC featured an interview with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, and the discussion turned to immigration. Matthews asked Crist about his views on immigration enforcement and said that part of being a Democrat (Crist’s new political party) is being weak on enforcement.

For anyone following our current Democratic president’s record on immigration enforcement, Matthews’ sentiment is a shock. As we highlighted in a letter we sent President Obama before Thanksgiving, the current administration has established an undeniably harsh record on immigration and border enforcement.

This is your week in civil liberties. Let us know if this is useful or if you’d like to see changes. Share your thoughts:

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