Act Update from Anthony D. Romero
Stakes are High in Roberts Nomination
Military Lawyers Honored for Challenging Guantánamo Policies
Defense Department Refuses to Turn Over Abuse Photographs
FBI Keeping Documents on ACLU and Other Peaceful Groups
FREEDOMWIRE: Quick Poll
In the States:
California Medical Marijuana Card Program Reinstated
Judges Rule in Favor of Native American Voters in South Dakota
ACLU Asks Missouri Judge to Let Lesbian Become Foster Parent
New York City Police Begin Random Bag Searches
Check out our Patriot Act Editorial Cartoon Gallery
and pick a card to send to your friends.
YOU CAN HELP
PROTECT OUR BASIC FREEDOMS by joining with over 400,000
card-carrying members of the ACLU. Our rights as individuals -- the
very foundation of our great democracy -- depend on our willingness to
defend them, and as an ACLU member, you'll be doing your part.
Medical Marijuana Card Program Reinstated
Click now to safeguard our Bill of Rights
by becoming an ACLU member.
The Schwarzenegger administration reinstated California’s medical
marijuana card program after demands from the ACLU and the Drug Policy
The ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance sent the governor a letter
threatening to sue him for violating the state’s constitution unless he
reinstated California’s medical marijuana card program. The program was
halted a few weeks ago, blocking medical marijuana patients from
obtaining registration cards to which they are entitled under
California law. This suspension came on the eve of its expansion from a
four-county pilot program to a statewide system designed to protect
patients from arrest and seizure of their medicine.
The decision to reinstate the card program was based on an opinion from
the state Attorney General, which explained that the issuance of state
ID cards could not conceivably violate federal law.
To read the ACLU and the Alliance’s letter to Governor Schwarzenegger
and the Department of Health Services, click here.
Judges Rule in Favor of Native American Voters in South Dakota
A panel of three federal court judges has issued an injunction against
the state of South Dakota, ruling unanimously that state officials must
comply with the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and obtain prior
approval from the Department of Justice before implementing a new law
that the judges say "gives the appearance of a rushed attempt to
circumvent the VRA."
According to the ruling, South Dakota officials have for decades
avoided complying with the federal Voting Rights Act by failing to seek
prior approval from federal officials before implementing more than 700
changes in election law or voting procedures that effect residents of
Shannon and Todd Counties, which are covered by Section 5 of the Act.
"The actions of the Legislature and the governor plainly violated our
earlier agreement, as well as the straightforward provisions of the
Voting Rights Act," said Jennifer Ring, Executive Director of the ACLU
of the Dakotas.
For more information on the ruling, click here.
Asked to Let Lesbian Become Foster Parent
The ACLU filed court papers on July 21 on behalf of a woman deemed
"exceptionally" qualified to become a foster mother whose application
was denied because she is a lesbian.
The ACLU brought this lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Social
Services on behalf of Lisa Johnston, a 40-year-old graduate of the
University of Kansas who holds a degree in Human Development and Family
with a special emphasis on child development. Johnston had applied to
DSS in 2003 to become a foster parent to a child that she and her
partner, Dawn Roginski, hoped to raise together. The couple underwent
an extensive home study and then began attending a training program for
prospective foster parents until DSS notified Johnston that it would no
longer consider her for placement solely because she is a lesbian.
Although the administrative judge found Johnston to be "exceptionally"
qualified to foster parent, he upheld the denial of her application in
March 2005. The decision was based in part on a Missouri law banning
sexual intimacy between same-sex couples that was rendered
unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas.
"Missouri’s anti-gay foster care ban does a huge disservice to
children. We hope that once the court sees how arbitrary DSS’s denial
of Lisa Johnston’s application was, this decision will be reversed,"
said Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the national ACLU’s Lesbian
and Gay Rights Project.
Additional information about the case, including biographical
information about Johnston and Roginski, is available here.
FREEDOMWIRE: QUICK POLL
FreedomWire wants to know if young people think the government should
have access to everyone’s educational records. What do you think? To
cast an online vote and see how answered, click here.
Do you know somebody who
would be interested in getting news about the ACLU and what we're doing
to protect civil liberties? Help us spread the word about ACLU
Online -- forward this newsletter to a friend.
On July 12, 2005,
about 500 activists took to the streets in midtown New York to rally
for reform of the Patriot Act.
Thanks to the dedication
of activists like all of you, we’re making progress on the Patriot Act.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted 257-to-171 to reauthorize
most of the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, and it added
additional 10-year “sunset” provisions on two of the most contentious
sections (including Section 215, known as the "library records"
provisions, but which really applies to any "tangible thing").
Although the vote itself was unfortunate, what it represents is
encouraging. First, the margin of victory was a dramatic improvement
(nearly 200% better) than the 357-to-66 vote in the House on the
original Patriot Act. Republicans like Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from
Orange County, California, bucked their party leadership to vote
against the reauthorization. The public concern that keeps you on this
e-mail list has certainly been heard on Capitol Hill.
Second, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a reauthorization bill to
the floor that takes a step forward compared with what the House passed
last week, although the ACLU has not endorsed that bill. The Senate
Judiciary bill includes some reforms to the most far-reaching sections
of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, so that federal agents would
have to at least show some specific facts to get an order for personal
records. While that does not go far enough to cure the civil liberties
flaws in that provision it is an improvement over current law as
reflected in the House bill and that the federal government can get a
court order for personal records on a simple assertion that it is
sought for or relevant to an intelligence investigation.
That progress is due directly to you. It’s due to the 400 community
resolutions, and the seven statewide bills, calling for Patriot Act
reform. It’s because Americans understand the need to protect our
Constitution, especially in times of crisis. It’s because groups like
the ACLU won’t simply defer to the Bush administration when it says
“trust us, we’re the government.”
The final chapter in the Patriot Act debate has yet to be written. We
hoped the Senate bill would be taken up on the floor this week for a
debate and vote. Because of unrelated legislative drama, it remains
unclear whether that will happen. Once it does, however, the fight will
turn to advancing modest improvements in the law to protect our civil
liberties and strenuously opposing efforts to keep the Patriot Act the
same or make it worse, and we'll also press to expand the sunsets so
these flawed powers do not become a permanent part of our law.
You can be sure that we will keep up the pressure so long as you
continue to give us your support. Together we can bring the Patriot Act
in line with the Constitution by including essential checks and
balances on abuse.
For the most up to date
information on the fight to reform the Patriot Act, please visit the
new ACLU Reform the Patriot Act blog. Lisa
Graves, our top legislative strategist on the Patriot Act, has been
giving us the scoop straight from Capitol Hill. Hope to see you there!
Anthony D. Romero
The stakes for civil
liberties are always high with any Supreme Court nomination.
The Supreme Court has played a pivotal role in advancing freedom.
Without the Supreme Court, the South would still be segregated, illegal
abortions would be claiming thousands of lives, the indigent would have
no right to a lawyer, and lesbian and gay Americans could be imprisoned
for their private sexual conduct.
The ACLU is deeply concerned about some of the civil liberties
positions advocated by Judge John Roberts, President Bush's choice to
replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. The
ACLU urges the Senate to take the time to fully examine Judge Roberts’
record and his personal views on core constitutional issues that will
influence our freedoms as a nation for years to come.
While serving as principal deputy solicitor general from 1989-1993, he
authored briefs calling for Roe v. Wade to be overruled, supporting
graduation prayer, and seeking to criminalize flag burning as a form of
"All these positions were rejected by the Supreme Court," said Steven
Shapiro, the ACLU's National Legal Director. "But the Supreme Court
remains closely divided on many of these questions. At a minimum, the
Senate should determine the extent to which the positions taken in
these briefs also reflect Roberts' personal views.”
Read more about the ACLU and the Supreme
Five military defense
lawyers who represented the first round of defendants at the Guantánamo
Bay tribunals and challenged the entire military commission system were
presented with the ACLU Medal of Liberty last week.
"These five uniformed officers have gone above and beyond the call of
duty in challenging the gross denial of legal rights to Guantánamo
detainees," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "As
men and women in uniform, they have boldly demonstrated that national
security and the protection of civil liberties need not be at odds."
The five Judge Advocate General Corps (JAG) lawyers were assigned to
represent the first round of defendants at the Guantánamo Bay military
commission, the first of its kind since World War II. Beyond providing
legal representation to their clients, the JAG lawyers have been vocal
and effective critics of the entire military commission process. They
have staked their personal reputations and military careers by
advocating on their clients’ behalf and criticizing the commission
rules and procedures, the lack of resources and the treatment of their
The lawyers joined a distinguished list of recipients of the Roger N.
Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award, which was created in 1989 in honor of
the ACLU’s founder and comes with a $25,000 prize. Previous winners
include Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi, courageous opponents of
the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II; former New
York Times columnist Anthony Lewis; and Dolores Huerta, a dedicated
champion of the rights of migrant workers.
Watch video excerpts from the Medal of
Liberty presentation and read more about the honorees.
In response to an ongoing
ACLU lawsuit, the United States government had a deadline of July 22nd
to process and redact photographs and videos relating to the abuse and
torture of prisoners held abroad. Raising new arguments on the eve of
its deadline, the U.S. government refused to release the materials to
In a letter filed at the eleventh hour, the Department of Defense
claimed that photographs and videos of abuse that the court had
previously ordered redacted for future release "could result in harm to
individuals" for reasons that will be set forth in a memorandum and
three declarations that the government will file under seal with the
U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.
Under the government’s proposal, the documents explaining the
government’s reasons for withholding the images of abuse will not be
available to the public except in redacted form, and the photographs
and videos may never be made public.
The ACLU has expressed skepticism at what appears to be yet another
attempt by the government to deny the public critical information about
the abuse and torture of prisoners.
The ACLU will continue to pursue the release of these documents so that
the truth can be aired and our leaders held accountable. The American
people must demand that our government never again let abuses like
these take place and that it never again places our young service men
and women in the unimaginable situations that led to these acts.
To date, more than 60,000 pages of government documents have been
released in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The ACLU has been posting these documents online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia.
The ACLU recently learned
that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on the ACLU
since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups
including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice.
The ACLU has revealed the contents of a government report on United for
Peace and Justice, a national peace organization that coordinates
non-violent protests. The document, sections of which are redacted, is
addressed to FBI "Counterrorism" personnel and quotes from UFPJ’s
website calling for a public demonstration prior to the 2004 Republican
"The UFPJ report underscores our concern that the FBI is violating
Americans’ right to peacefully assemble and oppose government policies
without being branded as terrorist threats," said Ann Beeson, Associate
Legal Director of the ACLU. "There is no need to open a
counterterrorism file when people are simply exercising their First
The ACLU has launched a nationwide effort to expose and prevent FBI
spying on people and groups simply for speaking out or practicing their
faith, and is currently seeking information about the FBI’s use of
Joint Terrorism Task Forces and local police to engage in political
surveillance. The requests were filed in response to widespread
complaints from students and political activists who said they were
questioned by FBI agents in the months leading up to the 2004 political
Find out if they could have a file on you!
On July 21st, the New
York City police department began conducting random searches of bags
and packages on city subways and commuter trains.
The NYCLU has opposed this random search policy. The Fourth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 12, of the New York
State Constitution protect against unreasonable searches of one’s
person or possessions. Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the
NYCLU, called the policy "a gross infringement of the fundamental
rights and liberties of persons living in a free society."
The NYCLU has set up online forms where commuters can report
experiences with police searches on public transportation. The
information submitted will help with an analysis and possible
constitutional challenge of the methods and practices used in these
"Conducting random searches of persons traveling in the mass transit
system will do little if anything to enhance the public safety," said
Lieberman. The NYCLU believes the practice may also divert attention
and resources from efforts that provide meaningful protection against
acts of terrorism.
More information about New York City's random searches policy and links
to the reporting forms are available here.
This mail is never sent unsolicited. You, or someone on your behalf,
has subscribed to receive this information from the American Civil
Liberties Union. At the ACLU Web site, the ACLU gathers anonymous
summary statistics on the responses to our email newsletters in order
to better serve list subscribes and ACLU members. To review our Privacy
Statement, click here.