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This Week in Civil Liberties (4/6/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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April 6, 2012

What do local law enforcement across the country use to track Americans’ location?

Which part of the government doesn’t recognize rape as sexual assault?

Which court ruled that you can be strip searched for a traffic violation?

How many members of Congress asked President Obama to protect LGBT employees from discrimination in the workplaces of federal contractors?

Which state refused a mandatory ultrasound bill this week?

The Results From Our Nationwide Cell Phone Tracking Records Requests
This week we released documents that show that some 200 law enforcement agencies across the country use cell phone location tracking. Given the intimate nature of location information, the government should have to obtain a warrant based upon probable cause to track cell phones. That is what is necessary to protect Americans’ privacy, and it is also what is required under the constitution.

Note to Military: Sexual Assault Includes Rape
While it is estimated that more than 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010, a rate far higher than among civilians, the government has failed systematically to investigate complaints, appropriately punish perpetrators, and treat trauma and other health conditions suffered by survivors. In response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and the ACLU seeking records from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs regarding their response to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence in the military, the Army Crime Records Center claimed it couldn’t provide records about “sexual assault” because its records are organized by specific criminal offenses such as “rape,” not under the general heading of “sexual assault.”

Supreme Court Says Jails Can Strip Search You – Even for Traffic Violations
This week a divided Supreme Court ruled in Florence v. Burlington that any person arrested can be subject to a strip search — even for a minor offense or traffic violation — without any reason to suspect that they may be carrying a weapon or contraband.

President Obama, Sign Non-Discrimination Executive Order, Say Dozens of Members of Congress
On Tuesday afternoon, more than 70 members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging him to sign an executive order to ensure that federal contractors receiving tax dollars do not discriminate against applicants and employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ultrasound Bill Won’t Fly, Even in Conservative Idaho
This week, Idaho, refused to pass a mandatory ultrasound bill. Legislators may have expected the bill to sail through, but they got some early clues that it would not. More than 200 people showed up for the first public hearing on the bill. The first person to testify handed the committee a petition opposing the bill with over 4,000 signatures.

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