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This Week in Civil Liberties (7/20/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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July 20, 2012

Which government agency monitors the private emails of its employees?

Which state is ready to illegally execute an intellectually disabled man on Monday?

Who is being sued by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights for authorizing the drone-strike deaths of three U.S. citizens?

A school board in which state decided to end its practice of holding public high-school graduations at a church?

Why is the ACLU suing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

Your Boss Shouldn’t Read Your Email

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a lengthy story detailing how the FDA monitored the communications of its own scientists, including communications with members of Congress, lawyers and journalists. Those scientists had blown the whistle on what they believed were flawed internal procedures that led to the approval of unsafe medical imaging devices. The FDA engaged in a massive email monitoring campaign to read their communications—including their private, personal emails. The emails that the FDA collected included those of a former member of Sen. Charles Grassley’s staff, presumably because he had exchanged messages with one or more of the targeted FDA officials.

A Tale of Three States: Executing the Mentally Disabled

Georgia: On Monday, the State of Georgia stands ready to strap Warren Hill to a gurney, place IV lines in his arms, and pump his body with poison until he dies. Warren Hill has an IQ of 70, and is intellectually disabled (mentally retarded). The execution is scheduled, despite a finding by a Georgia judge, who held a hearing and looked at the relevant evidence – applying U.S. Supreme Court precedent barring execution of the intellectually disabled under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

ACLU and CCR File Lawsuit Challenging Targeted Killing of Three U.S. Citizens

This week, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s targeted killing of three U.S. citizens in drone strikes far from any armed conflict zone.

In Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta (Al-Awlaki v. Panetta), we charge that senior CIA and military officials violated the Constitution and international law when they authorized and directed drone strikes that resulted in the deaths of three U.S. citizens – Anwar Al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, and 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi – in Yemen last year.

Religious Rites, Students’ Rights, and Rites of Passage

For several years, the public high schools of Enfield, Conn. held their graduation ceremony in the First Cathedral Church in nearby Bloomfield. Students, friends, and family entered the building under a large cross, passed through a lobby decorated with religious banners, and entered into the main sanctuary, where the graduation took place below a stained glass cross and two banners that read “Jesus Christ is Lord” and “I am God.” Attending graduation meant going to church. On July 18, the Enfield Board of Education finally agreed not to hold future graduations at First Cathedral, bringing an end to a lawsuit and peace of mind to all students who wanted to celebrate their rite of passage without passing under a cross.

Sheriff Arpaio, Racial Profiling is Illegal

This week, a class-action lawsuit brought by the victims of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling practices got underway in Phoenix. These proceedings will hopefully change the way Arpaio runs his office and prevent future instances of discrimination. Among our goals: helping deputies return to pursuing outstanding felony warrants and child rape cases that have been ignored for years, rather than being forced to detain law-abiding citizens for “traffic violations.”

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