Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ACLU looks the other way?

Steve Tefft complains bitterly in his Barnstable Patriot column Sarah impaled that when vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal email account was recently hacked, "the privacy scolds of the ACLU and the mainstream media – always quick to question terrorist surveillance – looked the other way."

The ACLU doesn't encourage hacking, but Tefft doesn't seem to understand that the ACLU doesn't take on every kind of fight. We focus on government infringements of civil liberties -- which this hacking of a personal email account, apparently by an individual or group of individuals, wasn't.

Investigate the FBI

The ACLU asks everyone to sign this petition to Glenn Fine, the U.S. Department of Justice's Inspector General, to investigate the FBI itself.  Proposed new guidelines would give the Bureau broad new investigative powers, but the ACLU suspects that the FBI has already been violating existing guidelines.

The new guidelines would simply provide retroactive cover, similar to the way Congress granted retroactive immunity this summer to the telecoms that went along with the Bush White House's illegal program of warrantless spying on ordinary Americans.

Will economic crisis further erode civil liberties?

That's what Robert Lovato explores in Economic 9/11: The Shrinking of Political Space.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When checks and balances (and audiovisuals) fail...

Last night, we filled the Rabb lecture hall at the Boston Public Library with more than 300 people who came for When Checks and Balances Fail: The Media and Civil Liberties in the 2008 Election.

But checks and balances weren't the only thing that failed -- the audiovisuals did too.  Host Barry Nolan planned to show several video clips that highlight both the problems with media coverage of civil liberties and the threats that journalists have come under for trying to do their jobs -- but the audio wasn't working.  So here they are now:

Why does it take a comedian to let the air out of the supposed controversy over Barack Obama not wearing a flag lapel pin -- and did it really deserve so much media attention in the first place? Discussion starts at 2:10 in the clip above.

Dan Abrams of TPMtv -- a project of the blog Talking Points Memo -- helps to shine some light on the absurdity of "lapel-gate" as well.

Similarly, The Daily Show, on Comedy Central, provided some of the best coverage of the summer's Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush, which said that Guantánamo detainees must be allowed to contest their imprisonment before a judge -- and the absurdity of some mainstream media coverage of the issue.

Meanwhile, reporters themselves have come under attack for doing their jobs, including at the recent Democratic and Republican conventions:

This video shows Amy Goodman of Democracy Now being arrested at the Republican National Convention.

Then there's an article about the arrest of AP photographer Matt Rourke, including the last photo in Rourke's camera before he himself was taken away.

ABC News also has this story about the arrest of Asa Eslocker, one of its producers who was arrested during the Democratic National Convention.

And finally, even Fox News reporters found themselves in trouble during the Republican National Convention.

As panelist Ellen Hume, of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media said, "The fight for civil liberties and the fight for journalism are really the same fight."

"We have an obligation to look to the future"

Today's Quincy Patriot Ledger carries an op-ed by Carol Rose, our Executive Director, in honor of Constitution Day.  It reflects on the damage done to the Constitution done by the Bush administration, and the opportunity to repair that damage in whichever administration comes next.  It's called What it truly means to be an American.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sarah Palin Sarah Palin Sarah Palin

Important issues often get lost in the media's coverage of elections.

So -- after you vote in today's primary election -- please join us tonight for "When Checks and Balances Fail: The Media and Civil Liberties in the 2008 Election."

Barry Nolan, our emcee for the event, came to the ACLU of Massachusetts office in Boston last week to show us what he has planned. It's great stuff, including clips from "The Daily Show," showing how Jon Stewart is one of the few in the media actually looking at the constitutional issues we face.

There's also truly scary video footage of reporters getting roughed up and arrested at the Democratic and Republican conventions a few weeks ago, just for trying to do their jobs. And Barry Nolan knows firsthand that journalists can pay a price for their work, because he lost his job earlier this year after criticizing Bill O'Reilly.

Please join us, and bring friends!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Globe stands up for smart DNA policies

There's a great editorial in the Globe today about the importance of being very careful with the collection of DNA samples as part of criminal investigations.  If people can't be sure that their privacy will be ensured, and don't know how their DNA samples and profile might be used in the future, and by whom, they're less likely to cooperate with investigations in the first place.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Scary images from Twin Cities

There are unbelievable images and video coming from the crackdowns at this election season's political conventions.  Here's the last photo taken by AP photographer Matt Rourke, showing another journalist on the ground, practically being hog-tied, before Rourke himself was taken in.

And here's the arrest on video of Democracy Now's Amy Goodman.

The ACLU of Minnesota has taken on the defense of Goodman and others.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Anti-immigrant fervor leads to snooping

Today's Globe carries an editorial, Health and Privacy in Danger, that highlights both the dilemmas faced by some immigrants, as well as the need for privacy.

Marxavi Angel Martinez came to the United States legally at age 3 with her parents, who overstayed their visa.  Twenty years later, Martinez reportedly used an illegal Social Security number to apply for a new job -- presumably because there was no way for her to get one of her own, but also no way to undo the fact that she was raised in the United States.

What she reportedly did was wrong, but she faced a difficult dilemma not of her own making.  Would you move to a country you barely knew if you found out that, technically, you weren't a legal U.S. resident?

Moreover, Martinez' status appears to have come to light because of a visit to a clinic for prenatal care for her now newborn son, who is an American citizen.  It isn't good for anyone when anti-immigrant fervor is used as an excuse for snooping and snitching -- which could violate the privacy of any one of us -- or making people afraid to get needed medical care.