Betreff: ACLU Online: Patriot Act, Gitmo JAGs, Supreme Court and more
Von: ACLU Online
Datum: Thu, 28 Jul 2005 14:48:41 -0500

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In This Issue

Patriot Act Update from Anthony D. Romero

Stakes are High in Roberts Nomination

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Military Lawyers Honored for Challenging Guantánamo Policies

Defense Department Refuses to Turn Over Abuse Photographs

FBI Keeping Documents on ACLU and Other Peaceful Groups


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

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California Medical Marijuana Card Program Reinstated

The Schwarzenegger administration reinstated California’s medical marijuana card program after demands from the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance.

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.

Missouri Judge 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 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.

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July 28, 2005

On July 12, 2005, about 500 activists took to the streets in midtown New York to rally for reform of the Patriot Act.

Title 1

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").

Read updates from Capitol Hill and links to related news in our Patriot Act blog.
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
Executive Director

Title 2

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 political protest.

"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 Court.

Title 3

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.

Lt. Col. Mark A. Bridges were among those honored for challenging the denial of legal rights to Guantánamo detainees.
"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 clients.

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.

Title 4

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 the public.

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:

Title 3

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.

Learn more about the ACLU’s nationwide campaign to expose and prevent FBI spying.
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 National Convention.

"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 Amendment rights."

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 conventions.

Find out if they could have a file on you!

Title 3

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 searches.

"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.

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