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Category Archive: Civil Liberties

Jan 22 2014

What Obama Didn’t Do on the NSA Reforms

Geoffrey Stone, the University of Chicago law school professor who served on President Obama’s review group on the NSA and privacy, thinks that the president’s recent speech and immediate reforms are important steps in reining in illegal surveillance. In particular, he praises him for the decision to require the NSA to get warrants from the …

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Jan 20 2014

Obama’s Mostly Meaningless NSA ‘Reforms’

President Obama gave what was billed as a very important speech on Friday that included a new presidential directive to rein in the NSA’s data mining programs and provide more safeguards for privacy. It was, predictably, a mostly meaningless collection of surface reforms that change very little.

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Jan 16 2014

Study: NSA Metadata Mining No Help in Preventing Terrorism

A new study from the New America Foundation of 225 terrorism cases concludes that the NSA’s cell phone metadata mining program has done nothing to prevent terrorism. In fact, only 4 times in all of those cases did the NSA use any authority under Section 215 of the Patriot Act at all.

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Jan 16 2014

NM Court Upholds Physician-assisted Suicide

A New Mexico state judge has ruled in a case brought by the ACLU that the state cannot prosecute doctors who aid their patients in ending their lives peacefully and painlessly. Judge Nan Nash ruled that a mentally competent person has a right to do that and to be helped in doing so:

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Jan 03 2014

A Tale of Two Court Rulings

In the last couple weeks, two separate judges have ruled on the NSA’s cell phone data mining operation. One of them, a Bush appointee, said the program is clearly unconstitutional; the other, a Clinton nominee, said the program is clearly constitutional. Andrew Cohen notes that the two rulings are almost completely opposite one another in …

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Jan 03 2014

Last Uighurs Finally Freed From Gitmo

The Pentagon announced this week that the last of the 22 Uighurs, a group of Muslims from China who are routinely persecuted, who had been captured and sent to Guantanamo Bay where they were likely tortured despite having no connection at all to terrorism, have finally been set free.

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Jan 03 2014

Florida Welfare Drug Testing Struck Down

After already issuing a preliminary injunction, a federal judge has made that injunction permanent and declared Florida’s appalling drug testing program for those receiving public assistance permanent to be unconstitutional. The judge rightly said that drug testing without individualized suspicion is a violation of the 4th Amendment.

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Dec 31 2013

Hope for Asset Forfeiture Reform in Michigan

I’m pleased to see that a bill has been submitted in the Michigan legislature to reform the way the police seize assets, both money and property, in criminal cases. There are actually two bills, but the most important of the two would require a conviction before a seizure can take place.

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Dec 28 2013

Police Cameras Work Brilliantly

This is a few weeks old but very much worth highlighting. The city of Rialto, California has, for the last couple years, been requiring all police officers to wear cameras on their uniform and record every interaction with the public on duty. The results have been exactly what we would expect:

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Dec 27 2013

No, the NSA Didn’t Lie!

President Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice told 60 Minutes that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t lie to Congress when he told them that the federal government was not collecting data on virtually all Americans.

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Dec 24 2013

Seriously, This Must Stop

Here’s another absolutely repulsive case of the government essentially committing sexual assault on someone on the suspicion that they have drugs in a bodily orifice. And all based on an “alert” from a drug-sniffing dog, which are wrong about 80% of the time.

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Dec 23 2013

The NSA Commission’s Report is Released

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, created by President Obama in the wake of the Snowden revelations, has released its 300 page report. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but Amy Davidson has a summary of its positions and recommendations.

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Dec 20 2013

NSA Review Panel to Advocate Real Reform?

Politico has an article on the now-completed report by the commission appointed by President Obama to make recommendations after Edward Snowden revealed just how intrusive and clearly illegal the NSA’s data mining operations have become. And the article claims that the commission may be recommending real reform, though not as much as critics would like.

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Dec 20 2013

Another State Allows Debtors’ Prisons

The ACLU is reporting that many cities in Colorado have joined several other states in putting people in jail if they can’t afford to pay the fines imposed on them as a condition of parole or probation, a perfect way to make sure that they can never move on after paying their debt to society.

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Dec 18 2013

Fed. Judge: NSA Metadata Collection Unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed over the NSA’s bulk collection of cell phone metadata violates the Fourth Amendment, but that ruling was stayed immediately to give the government the chance to appeal it to a higher court. But the language in the ruling is very important and spot on.

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