Thursday, August 30, 2007

News: Advocates criticize federal roundups

The Boston Globe carries another strong article today about Tuesday's raids on immigrants in Chelsea, Somerville, and East Boston. Supposedly they were directed at members of a "violent Salvadoran gang," but agents reportedly picked up other immigrants they came across, including legal residents.

The article cites Anjali Waikar, our Equal Justice Works Fellow, who points out that Constitutional protections, such as the right to refuse a warrantless search, apply to everyone in the country, not just citizens.

The article also quotes Mark Krikorian, of the Washington, DC-based Center for Immigration Studies. He says, "So what...?" Well, here's what: if basic constitutional protections didn't apply equally, everyone would need to be able to prove their citizen status on demand, wherever they want. Could you? And do you want to live in a 'Your papers, please' society?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Press Release: ACLU of Massachusetts praises Tufts President and Dean for protecting freedom of speech on campus

The ACLU of Massachusetts praises the decision by Tufts University yesterday to drop a punishment imposed last spring on The Primary Source, a conservative student journal.

In May, the Tufts University Committee on Student Life ruled that The Primary Source had violated the student code by publishing two pieces that other students complained constituted harassment. One appeared to condemn the Islamic religion and the other mocked the academic qualifications of students of color. The Committee ordered that the journal had to henceforth publish a byline for every article, thus identifying each author and preventing anonymous speech.

The Journal filed an appeal with the Dean of Undergraduate Education at Tufts, James Glaser. The ACLU of Massachusetts wrote to the Dean and to the President of the University, expressing concern for freedom of speech on campus, even for obnoxious or offensive speech, and urging that the sanction be overturned. Anonymous speech has long been considered essential and protected in rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Monday, the Dean of Undergraduate Education issued his decision on the appeal and set aside the requirement that bylines be published on all articles in The Primary Source. He found that this requirement by the Committee on Student Life was a punishment for unpopular speech. Also on Monday, the President of the University, Lawrence Bacow, issued a strong statement in support of freedom of speech on campus.

"The ACLU of Massachusetts is heartened by the actions of the Tufts President and Dean," said Sarah Wunsch, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts. "While we do not in any way support the views expressed in the articles in The Primary Source, we do believe that the answer to offensive speech is not to punish it. As President Bacow stated, the 'appropriate response to offensive speech is more speech, not less.' We are especially appreciative of the recognition by President Bacow that although Tufts is a private university and not directly bound by the First Amendment, free speech rights are just as essential on a private campus as they are at a public university, where the Constitution applies without question."

President Bacow’s statement is available at:
http://go.tufts.edu/8-27statement

The ACLU of Massachusetts letter is available at:
http://www.aclum.org/pdf/ACLUM_Tufts_Letter_30May2007.pdf

Monday, August 27, 2007

News: Straight dad with flair for dramatics gets himself arrested at kid's school

Proud Parenting mentions the work of the ACLU of Massachusetts in a story about the saga of David Parker's crusade to block the use of books about different kinds of families, including families with two men or two women as parents, in Lexington, Mass., schools.

Press Release: Statement on Resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales by Carol Rose, Executive Director

BOSTON - "The reported resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales presents an opportunity to stop the erosion of civil liberties, which must not be missed.

"The so-called 'Protect America Act,' passed by Congress earlier this month, provides one of the clearest illustrations of the need for a better U.S. Attorney General. Under the terms of this Congressional cave-in, the U.S. Attorney General is now one of two people, along with the Director of National Intelligence, who oversees the warrantless wiretapping of ordinary Americans.

"The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts urges Sens. Kennedy and Kerry to take the lead in insisting on the confirmation of an Attorney General who is truly committed to the rule of law and the preservation of Americans' privacy, liberties, and rights -- not someone who will simply facilitate the accumulation of more and more power in the hands of the President.

"Appointing an Attorney General who is an advocate of civil liberties is a critical step in the direction of restoring the liberties we have lost in recent years to false promises of security."

More information on the loss of civil liberties is available from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts online:

http://www.aclum.org/issues/civilliberties.html

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Press Release: ACLU of Massachusetts Urges Congress to Hold White House in Contempt, Force Compliance on NSA Subpoenas

BOSTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today asked Congress to hold the White House in contempt. Having disregarded the second deadline for compliance with Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenas, the White House, Office of the Vice President and Department of Justice can now be held in contempt of Congress.

The original subpoenas were issued June 27th and sought materials related to the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The White House received an extension in July, and the second deadline for compliance was Monday at 2:30 p.m. The ACLU is asking Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and the committee to vote to hold the offices in contempt and, if necessary, force compliance through court proceedings. The ACLU is asking Leahy and the Committee vote to hold the offices in contempt upon Congress’ return in September.

“Today, the people of Massachusetts will raise their voices for government accountability,” said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “No one is above the law – not the Department of Justice, not the vice president and not even the president. Repeated failure to comply with these subpoenas is a slap in the face to Congress and, by extension, those who elected them. The Senate Judiciary Committee has led admirably, and now Congress has to show leadership. We deserve answers about this illegal and unconstitutional program, and we’re asking Congress not to back down now.”

In the first effort of its kind, the ACLU filed a request on August 8 with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) requesting that it disclose recent legal opinions discussing the scope of the government's authority to engage in secret wiretapping of Americans. In their aggressive push to justify passing this ill-advised legislation, the administration and members of Congress made repeated and veiled references to orders issued by the FISC earlier this year. On August 17th, the court said the request was "unprecedented" and required the government to respond to the ACLU's request by August 31.

The ACLU is also continuing its challenge in the courts to the president's illegal wiretapping plan. In July, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's decision declaring the NSA program unconstitutional and ruled that the ACLU's clients—scholars, journalists, and national nonprofit organizations—were not entitled to sue because they could not state with certainty that they had been secretly wiretapped by the NSA. The ACLU is currently weighing its options, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Without accountability, there is nothing stopping our government from abusing its power again and again,” added Rose. “For over a year and a half, our questions about this program have gone unanswered. The people of Massachusetts should contact their member of Congress and let it be known that not only do they want answers, they deserve them.”

More information on the ACLU’s concerns with the NSA spying is online at www.aclu.org/nsaspying.

Take action on the ACLU’s website, Subpoena Watch, at www.subpoenawatch.com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Broken Promises

On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, the national ACLU released Broken Promises, a detailed report on racial injustice and human rights violations during and after the storm.

It makes me wonder how the government would respond if a disaster ever struck Massachusetts.

Monday, August 13, 2007

News: Probe sought into death of detainee

Adding to serious concerns about the treatment of those detained on immigration charges, a Brazilian man living in Massachusetts died on Tuesday, 75 minutes after Rhode Island police took him into custody on an outstanding deportation warrant.

Editorial: A real bad ID law

Following up on a previous editorial in March, the Boston Globe on Sunday ran another strong piece against the Real ID national identity card.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

News: Offender bylaw delayed

The Boston Globe quotes John Reinstein, ACLU of Massachusetts Legal Director, in a story about the ongoing controversy over sex-offender registry restrictions. Recently, a Dedham bylaw that declared three-quarters of the town off-limits to sex offenders, but its implementation has been delayed pending review of its details.

Reinstein told the Globe that such ordinances "give the illusion of providing protection while not providing real protection." Sex offenders have a low rate of repeat offenses, but ordinances could actually make rehabilitation harder by cutting offenders off from jobs and forcing them into isolation from friends and family .

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Letters to the Editor: Bush and Congress serve up a surveillance law

The Boston Globe responds today to Congress' decision to allow warrantless wiretaps of American citizens, in its editorial All Tapped Out on Civil Liberties.

The Globe also printed several letters to the editor about the issue in a section entitled Bush and Congress Serve Up a Surveillance Law. It includes a letter by Nancy Murray, Director of Education for the ACLU of Massachusetts, as well as from Daniel E. Speers, a telecommunications expert, who warns, "in passing the Protect America Act of 2007... Congress has authorized the clandestine wiretapping of all Americans and all calls and communications to and from anywhere, whether private or commercial."

State Sen. Moore's "Tea Party"

Bravo to Massachusetts state Senator Richard Moore. The Boston Globe reported yesterday that he symbolically dumped the Real ID Act into Boston Harbor as part of a new Boston Tea Party.

We're making our own plans to "dump Real ID." Stay tuned...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Massachusetts Congressmen do the right thing while Congress hands Gonzales (yes, Gonzales) new surveillance powers

If we want to preserve what is left of our civil liberties, we may have to keep Congress in session year round. Not that the legislature is doing a good job preserving checks and balances – far from it! But all it appears to take is an impending recess and cranking up the politics of fear for the Executive branch to get its way.

And so in swift order, first the Senate (August 4) and then the House (August 5) endorsed the "Protect America Act of 2007" without any kind of Committee hearing, leaving the President to spend a few minutes on Sunday signing it into law. The only positive thing there is to say about this sorry performance is that not a single Massachusetts legislator went along with this enhancement of the government's warrantless NSA spying program. With the exception of Senator Kerry and Representative Delahunt who did not vote, all of our elected officials opposed it.

What a difference a few weeks can make! Attorney General Gonzales may have been on the hot seat last month, with perjury accusations about this very NSA spying program hanging over his head. But now he is in the driver's seat. The "compromise" insisted on by Democrats is that he doesn't get to oversee the program all on his own, but shares the responsibility with Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell.

Doesn't it make you feel much safer to know that this duo can command all telecommunications companies to hand over their records and permit the government to conduct wiretapping from their facilities? That your overseas emails and telephone conversations are there for the picking without any kind of court order? That it's up to that Great Communicator, the Attorney General, to report on what is being done to Congressional committees and the FISA court?

As legislators – including the 57 Democrats who sold out the Fourth Amendment -- chill out for the rest of the summer, they may be thinking it's no big deal. In six months they can re-visit it and throw a sop or two at constituents who care about civil liberties.

But will that happen? The last time Congress gave the President what he wanted so they could stampede out of town for the October recess, we got the Military Commissions Act of 2006. At a Senate hearing on the bill on September 25, 2006, protestors stood in T-shirts declaring "Torture is Un-American" and "Save Habeas Corpus," while retired rear admiral and top military lawyer John Hutson said of habeas corpus, "Without these kinds of protections, we're just another banana republic." An amendment which would have preserved habeas corpus lost by just a handful of votes.

Ten months later, with the Democrats "in control," we still don't have it back. A banana republic with National Security Agency technology is quite a scary beast. If it takes fear to motivate Congress, maybe each Member should be sent a DVD of the 1998 Hollywood film about the NSA, "Enemy of the State." That may be the only hope we have of getting some of our civil liberties back.

Nancy Murray
Director of Education
ACLU of Massachusetts

News: New law expands power to wiretap

The Boston Globe quotes Anthony Romero, national ACLU Executive Director, in its story about passage of the so-called "Protect America Act of 2007." Astonishingly, Congress gave oversight of the surveillance program to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has been refusing to answer questions about a similar, earlier effort which violated the law.

The consolation prizes are that no one in the Massachusetts delegation voted for the measure, and Congress has a chance to review it again in six months.

National's press release about passage of the law is here, and a Myths and Facts page demolishes the arguments the White House gave for passage.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

News: Tiny tags have big impact on business, society

The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune published this story on RFID, the tracking technology planned for use in the coming Real ID national identity card. The story quotes Barry Steinhardt, director of the national ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program. Steinhardt says:

“We’re really on the verge of creating a surveillance society in America, where every movement, every action — some would even claim, our very thoughts — will be tracked, monitored, recorded and correlated.”

Friday, August 3, 2007

News: Tossing kids out with the bath water

The Worcester Telegram quotes Ron Madnick, of the ACLU of Massachusetts Worcester County Chapter, in its story about a summer basketball league's expulsion of two entire teams over the alleged gang connections of a few members.

Madnick told the Telegram that the decision went against one of the “fundamental principles of our system of justice — you are responsible for your own actions, not the actions of individuals in the group you belong to."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Editorial: When mayors turn into ICE

The Boston Globe weighs in on the trend toward local officials trying to make or enforce immigration law, in an editorial called "When mayors turn into ICE." The piece mentions Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where a local ordinance aimed to punish landlords and employers who dealt with undocumented workers.

The law was recently overturned in a case brought by the ACLU and other groups.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007