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This Week in Civil Liberties (5/4/2012)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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May 4, 2012

What surveillance tool used by law enforcement could lead to nightmarish privacy infringement?

This week, the White House confirmed the existence of what program that has been kept secret by the CIA?

“Liking” on what social network is not protected by the First Amendment, according to a federal judge in Virginia?

Which state wants to replace one private prison contractor with another?

Which state is being sued by an ACLU affiliate for its discriminatory voter ID law?

Drones: The Nightmare Scenario
In our drones report, we discuss the coming onslaught of domestic drones and the weak state of the privacy laws that should protect us, and we outline our recommendations for protections that Congress and local governments should put in place.

But if nothing is done, how might things go? Let’s take a look at how police drone use could unfold.

White House Confirms Existence of Targeted Killing Program
Only hours after The New York Times ran an ACLU op-ed about the CIA’s misuse of secrecy to withhold information from the public about the agency’s targeted killing program, the Obama administration gave its clearest acknowledgement yet of the program. John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism advisor, delivered remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in which he publicly confirmed the United States conducts targeted killings of suspected terrorists using drones. In his speech, Brennan insisted the targeted strikes are a “wise choice” and “legal” and within the boundaries of international law.

I Like Ike
“I Like Ike” is one of the most well-known and catchiest political slogans of all time. According to a decision that was issued by a federal judge in Virginia recently, however, the modern-day equivalent—saying you “like” a political candidate by using Facebook’s “like” feature—is not worthy of the protections of the First Amendment. That decision is wrong, whether you like or dislike Facebook.

Private Prisons Are the Problem, Not the Solution
For the past two years, the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center have been investigating and exposing a horrifying pattern of abuse against juveniles and the mentally ill in two Mississippi prisons operated by the GEO Group, one of the biggest for-profit prison operators in the world.

Recently, we got some good news and some bad news on that front:
– The good: the Mississippi Department of Corrections has ended its contract with GEO.
– The bad: the department has announced that it is looking for another for-profit prison contractor to operate the three state prisons formerly run by GEO.

Thousands of Pennsylvanians at Risk of Losing the Right to Vote
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit this week challenging the state’s discriminatory voter ID law. Pennsylvania joins a growing number of states that have enacted voter suppression measures that will keep minority voters, Blacks in particular, from casting a ballot. The new law is set to go into effect just in time to keep many long-time Pennsylvania voters from the polls in this year’s presidential election.

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