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This Week in Civil Liberties (12/20/2013)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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December 20, 2013

This week ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero thanked which whistleblower for being a true patriot?

How many years did Reynolds Wintersmith spend in federal prison for a non-violent drug offense before President Obama commuted his life sentence?

Which university violated Title IX by refusing to respond to the sexual abuse of one of its students and telling her to leave if she couldn’t handle the circumstances?

In conducting surveillance, how does a watcher “catch” a subject unawares?

Should diplomats always get immunity?

Edward Snowden is a Patriot

As a whistleblower of illegal government activity that was sanctioned and kept secret by the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government for years, Edward Snowden undertook great personal risk for the public good. And he has single-handedly reignited a global debate about the extent and nature of government surveillance and our most fundamental rights as individuals.

I Will Die Here, Unless President Obama Helps

Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of Reynolds Wintersmith and three others sentenced to life without parole for non-violent offenses. Reynolds joined a drug ring when he was 17 years old and, for just over a year, sold crack and powder cocaine in Rockford, Ill. He was arrested when he was 19 years old.

Reynolds spent over half his life in federal prison. He missed 20 years of graduations, funerals, and carved turkeys for holidays. Before the commutation, Reynolds blogged for the ACLU on why he deserves clemency.

My University Has Failed Me

Gabrielle,” a student at Carnegie Mellon University, began a relationship with a woman who verbally and sexually abused her for six months. After their relationship ended, her ex stalked her at school and continued to have violent outbursts and physically intimidate her. Shockingly, the University has responded dismissively, with officials stating that if Gabrielle cannot handle these circumstances, then she should leave, and that she is not the only sexual assault survivor in this situation at Carnegie Mellon University. Federal law requires universities to properly respond to sexual harassment and abuse under Title IX. So not only is Carnegie Mellon’s behavior appalling, it’s also illegal.

The Flawed Logic of Secret Mass Surveillance

Privacy is a form of power. Humans are always highly aware who is observing them at any given time and place, and always tailor their behavior to that audience. And they generally work to make sure that their behavior does not reveal things that might put them at a disadvantage. To really gain new insight or leverage over another person, you have to watch them when they don’t know they’re being watched so that their guard is down.

Should Diplomats Always Get Immunity?

A diplomatic furor has erupted between New Delhi and Washington over the recent arrest of an Indian consular official by U.S. authorities for alleged visa fraud and underpayment of a housekeeper who she had brought from India.

In the wake of her arrest, Devyani Khobragade, who is Deputy Counsel General at the Indian Consulate in New York, has claimed immunity from prosecution and is now out on bail and seeking full diplomatic immunity for her alleged crimes. The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case has indicated that immunity doesn’t apply here because Khobragade’s alleged criminal acts were not carried out as part of her role as a consular official.

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