Thursday, December 20, 2007

Civil Liberties News In Review - 12/20/07

Here's some more news for today. The news review will probably hibernate for the next two weeks, but the work of protecting civil liberties never rests - become a member of the ACLU and be a card-carrying member in 2008!

State Senator Breske thinks cracking down on immigration by fining employers who hire them is a good idea.

Cap Times editorial highlights Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson's career and also her comments about anti-immigration efforts in Green Bay. The editorial comes with a lovely forum section sparked by a pro-English-only advocate. Feel free to join in on the debate.

Law Enforcement
Ever wonder what happens to confiscated drug evidence? Concern about the apparent sieve of the Madison Police Department's evidence room is leading to a tightening of their procedures in order to clamp down on unlawful use and to improve public support.

Safe and Free
Beloit Professor says after 9/11, we see torture as normal.

Separation of Church and State
Green Bay wiccan wreath vandalized
So much for inclusion. When will folks realize that this is about the separation of church and state, not a free-for-all of religious expression on government grounds? Religious expression is best kept on private property. The city voted to keep only the nativity anyway.

Student Rights and Military Recruitment
Students at East organize info table on counter recruitment.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dramatic Revelations in The New York Times

New revelations in The New York Times make it even more unforgivable that so many senators are prepared to vote “Yes” on FISA legislation that permits continued unconstitutional invasions of our privacy.

Call your senators now.

Can we trust what the Bush administration has been telling us about the NSA spying program?

Obviously not. As this past weekend’s revelations in the New York Times(1) make clear, Bush and company haven’t been telling us the truth. And that makes it even harder to understand why the United States Senate seems so eager to pass legislation that gives President Bush virtually everything he wants when it comes to continued out-of-control government spying.

Tell your senators to put the brakes and stop the Senate from approving reckless FISA legislation.

The Bush administration has hidden the facts time and again on NSA spying:

1. They told us it was all about stopping terrorism. But now, we’ve learned that the NSA’s massive wiretapping and data collection program started long before 9/11 -- in fact, it started in the 90s -- and was ramped up by this administration immediately after Bush took office. The NSA is also routinely collecting phone records for run-of-the-mill drug cases that have nothing to do with terrorism.

2. They told us it’s not about gathering domestic information. But now, the New York Times reveals that part of what made Qwest balk at a request for data in early 2001 was that the program was designed to pick up significant amounts of purely domestic communications by granting the NSA access "to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls" and that only "limited international traffic also passes through the switches." In fact, one anonymous engineer confirmed that in creating the program to copy all the calls coming across one company's wires, "There was no discussion of limiting the monitoring to international communications."

3. They told us they were gathering just the data they absolutely needed to fight terrorism. But now we know that their assurances that the government doesn’t conduct -- and doesn’t want to conduct -- vast dragnet operations just aren't true. As the New York Times reports, "The N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it."

How much more evidence do leaders in the Senate need before they get that this is a program that needs to be investigated and stopped, not given a reckless stamp of approval?

Tell your senators to put on the brakes and stop the Senate from approving reckless FISA legislation.

Then, ask your friends to take action.

Enough is enough. Join the ACLU in doing everything we can to stop this dangerous Senate legislation that gives NSA spying a stamp of approval. We’re fighting as hard as we can in Congress and if the Bush administration gets its way from a spineless Senate, we’ll keep fighting this unconstitutional program in the courts.

We need you to fight with us. Please contact your senators now. The Senate could act at any time.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
© ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor New York, NY 10004

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wickersham speaks on torture - Dec. 18

Check this out:

Join the Dane County UN-USA for their rescheduled monthly meeting, Tuesday, Dec 18, 7:15PM.

Free and open to the public.

NOTE: We will be meeting in the Main Gate Auditorium DOWNSTAIRS – take the elevator one flight down.

Monthly Program Meeting

Program Topic: Taking Action NOW to Stop Torture
Speaker: Rev. Carol Wickersham

Place: Meriter Main Gate, 333 West Main Street
(Free parking in ramp across Main Street)
NEW Time: Tuesday, Dec 18th, 7:15 p.m.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted on December 10, 1948. Article V says: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

Our program is therefore: "Taking Action NOW to Stop Torture"

Rev. Carol Wickersham, Coordinator of No2Torture ( a program of the Presbyterian Church - USA and a member of the board of the National Religious Coalition Against Torture (

Wickersham is on the Sociology faculty at Beloit College and is part of the Leadership Initiative for the College. She is the Director of the Duffy Community Partnerships, a community-based, experiential education program. She lives with her family in Clinton WI , and serves on the Clinton school board.

For more details visit our website:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Civil Liberties news in review - 12/12/07

Lots of action in the news today! Check out the stories below, especially the news on Compassionate Care for Rape Victims and the nearly-over controversy on holiday tree naming.

Wisconsin Policy Institute study shows high anti-immigrant attitudes by Wisconsin residents

The study, which made headlines this week, shows a strong anti-immigrant sentiment among those polled. While the news reported that the polling results showed that respondents did not want immigrant kids in local public schools or getting in-state tuition rates in the UW system, a closer look at the polling results shows that the questions had a strong anti-immigrant bias (see page 5). The Wisconsin Policy Institute describes itself as a nonprofit institute established in 1987 to study public policy issues affecting the state of Wisconsin. It also describes itself as Wisconsin's Free Market Think Tank.

What would happen if Wisconsin residents were asked if all children residing in the State of Wisconsin have a right to an education? What if they were asked if all drivers should be required to have drivers' licenses, regardless of their residency status, in order to ensure safety on our roads? What if they were asked if the current policy of the UW System to allow people who want to qualify for in-state residency tuition rates is fair (read the policy - it is pretty inclusive already)? Questions of residents about these attitudes about "illegal immigrants" would surely reflect more humanitarian ideas among residents in Wisconsin.

Law Enforcement
ACLU of Wisconsin in the news - Badger Herald article on police misconduct reports

Read more about the low-level of police misconduct complaints and why everyone needs to be informed about their rights.

Reproductive Rights
Compassionate Care for Rape Victims passes, but stalls on final reading until next month

Assembly Stalls on EC in ER bill. The Republican-controlled Assembly denied the bill a final reading last night, but the bill did pass 56 to 41.

Find out how your Assembly representative voted (PDF).

Read the articles in the Wisconsin State Journal, the Badger Herald, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Daily Cardinal.

Read the feedback from NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin (PDF).

Separation of Church and State
State Assembly passes "Christmas" tree resolution

Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker says it won't see action in the Senate. Decker would make a great goalie - thanks for the block!

See how your legislator voted.

Channel 3000 posted an announcement about the vote. There's a forum section too if you'd like to express yourself, especially to assertions that those who oppose Christmas trees in the Rotunda would also oppose displays on private property. An opinion was also written in the Daily Cardinal, along with a poll on what the tree should be called

You can also read in the Isthmus how a local songwriter has re-written some carol lyrics in honor of the tree name. Bill Leuders also points out that Bill O'Reilly poked at Madison again last week and called our town a "secular progressive heaven."* Is that better than communing with Satan? On a related note, here's a classic anti-ACLU clip from Bill's show in 2005 that pretty much sums up his take on this new holiday tradition as he interviewed his coiffed guest, John Gibson about Gibson's "war on Christmas" book. Watch the clip on the Media Matters site.

Of course we could be like the Green Bay City Hall. If the picture on the WMTV website homepage is of the actual nativity scene, it begs the question of who should be more offended: non-Christians of the unconstitutional display or Christians of the tacky plastic rendition of their central religious figure.

Sex Offender Registry
Interesting article in the Appleton Post-Crescent that illustrates how limiting the places where sex-offenders can live, while well-intended, actually could drive them underground and lie about where they reside. Article also points out the role of rehabilitation and reconciliation of sex offenses as they are more likely to be made by family members or friends rather than the "stranger danger" that fuels paranoia and politicians' motivations to pass such "tough on crime" laws.

Student Rights and Military Recruitment
Local anti-recruitment activists demanded that the school board put the military ad on a board meeting agenda last night.

From the Cap Times article: "Also appearing before the board were more than a half-dozen citizens who have been protesting military recruitment tactics in city high schools.

They have encouraged parents and students to sign opt-out forms so that the schools do not have to provide names and addresses of students to the military, as required by law. And they vigorously oppose the district's willingness to accept money from the military for advertising in high school gymnasiums and stadiums."

Visit the ACLU of Wisconsin's resource page regarding student rights and military recruitment.

More cameras in schools plus "behavior coaches" to teach kids how to keep in line

Story on WKOW includes video. Another story was posted on the Channel 3000 website.

* post corrected on 12/13/07. Thanks for the catch Tyler! Hope this update makes the reference more clear to readers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Civil Liberties News In Review - week of 12/02/07

Here are some of the stories that stood out during this past week. Check back with Cap City Liberty to catch some of the stories that made the news this week on civil liberties issues in Madison and in the state of Wisconsin.

Federal Abuse of Power
Dean Koh’s lecture at the UW Law school highlights need to restore rule of law
Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh’s lecture at the UW Law schoo was excellent . He called for more citizen participation in the demand for federal accountability and a restoration of the rule of law. One of the easiest ways to do this, of course, would be to join the ACLU.

“Some of the things Congress can do to put things right, Koh said, include closing Guantanamo, revising the Military Commissions Act, demanding admission of the International Committee of the Red Cross into all U.S. operated or controlled detention facilities and placing a genuine ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by U.S. personnel and contractors everywhere in the world… He also argues that civil society, represented by citizens, the media and career officials, must stand up to what it sees as abuses of power and encroachments on freedom.” (Cap Times – 12/01/07)

Patriot Act
Feingold comments on Patriot Act during listening session in LaCrosse

An article on what Feingold said at the listening session was detailed in the Lacrosse Tribune.

Real ID
Article on out-of-state drivers and fines relates to interstate databases

Check out this article in the Cap Times on interstate databases to track down drivers from out of state who broke Wisconsin laws while driving on our roads. The intent of the database would be a great way to get lawbreakers to pay up, but the database is another step toward making Real ID happen in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also had an article on the issue.

Ex-Felon Enfranchisement
Ex-felons eligible to vote could still vote on election (or primary day) and prove their eligibility later if there is confusion at the polls, says the Dane County Clerk in an article in the Cap Times.

The Dane County clerk said it shouldn't make any difference if a former felon is mistakenly still on the list of felons. "Even if a felon was listed incorrectly and couldn't prove he was listed incorrectly, such as having his release papers with him, he still could vote," Ohlsen said. "The poll worker could challenge the felon voter, but the voter would still be able to vote and the challenge would be looked at later." (Cap Times)

Law Enforcement
Police reports available to the media dry up

The Wisconsin State Journal noted that the quantity of police reports in Madison has gotten really small, in contract to the spike in vocal concern of citizens about crime in their community. Keep an eye out for more details on this developing story. Full policy is available in a PDF version online (go to section 3-600)

Reproductive Rights
Emergency Contraception in the Emergency Room bill expected to pass

Read about the bill in the State Journal or in the Cap Times. The bill is controversial in that the original form of the bill would require all female rape victims to be informed of, and provided upon request, the option to take emergency contraception to avoid pregnancy. Opponents of the bill testified in a hearing before an Assembly committee that it would unfairly require ER doctors and nurses who might oppose the use of the drug on moral/religious grounds to provide the drug.

Read more about the ACLU’s position on the balance of religion and equal protection that is at the center of this debate. Or read the full report from the ACLU on Religious Refusals and Reproductive Rights: Accessing Birth Control at the Pharmacy (the good stuff is on page 26).

Also, read about the support for the bill from the Compassionate Care for Rape Victims Coalition, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

In more news about birth control, the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health is calling for federal price fixing of birth control – an issue that will also have an impact on college students who get their birth control on campus.

LGBT Rights
Same-sex marriage ban referendum question might have been a double whammy

A UW-Oshkosh political science teacher is taking on the constitutionality of the referendum question and a Dane County circuit judge has given the challenge the green light to proceed.

Voting Rights
Another call for photo ID at the polls surfaces after a study on WI voting trends

The state Legislative Audit Bureau issued a report that says that our polling places have inadequate technology to help volunteers to deal with separating out valid voters from felons and dead people. The Accenture statewide voter list is still paid for yet M.I.A. But the LAB report actually says that there were few real problems with voting fraud, but still Sen. Mary Lazich says we need to show our photo ID at the polls. So does Sen. Joe Leibham. Rep. Joe Parisi responds in the context of his bill to enfranchise ex-felons which would not only promote voting rights for citizens who are no longer behind bars, but would also eliminate felon lists altogether.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign points to another study that includes some concerns about the WI system. So does the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin. Or you can read the original Ohio State press release.

Racial Justice
Court cases on controversial hate crimes wrap up

There was justice in the Frank Jude beating case. But not so much in the Cha Vang murder case that Hmong rights activists said should have had a stiffer penalty assigned to hate crimes cases.

Privacy Rights
An editorial in the Cap Times calls for a condition on Sen. Spencer Black’s robocall bill

Read the article here. This is a bill that the ACLU of Wisconsin opposes on the grounds that a blanket prohibition on the technology of automatic recordings on political issues is a violation of free expression and that adding political campaign calls to the “do not call list” would empower citizens to protect their own privacy.

Facebook backtracks on advertising policy
The Daily Cardinal published this story about how started using technology that would track the interests of users in order to craft targeted advertising methods. Facebook has since backtracked on their policy.

Recycling program in Madison drops pick up, state legislation may improve rules
Changing the law on electronics recycling statewide would be a good idea for landfills, but be sure to clean off your computer before you ditch it! Requiring companies to recycle old computers (and TVs and other big electronic items) could set up a great opportunity for identity thieves to strip your important info off of your hard drive. Stuff in your garbage or dropped off at recycling center is fair game for thieves and police alike, so be sure to take steps to protect your privacy.

Free Speech
Blog sarcasm lands teacher in hot water

Here’s an insane story about a teacher’s blog posting that got him ARRESTED. Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin posted his own sarcastic response to the issue on his blog which in turn angered bike riders across the country.

“Christmas” Tree in the Capitol
‘Tis the season – for squibbles around “Christmas” trees at the Capitol

Rep. Marlin Schneider, usually very good about civil liberties when it comes to issues like privacy rights, introduced a bill to rename the large pine tree in the Capitol Rotunda the “Christmas” tree in an attempt to fight what he sited as an excess of political correctness when the tree’s name was changed to a holiday tree. Our state legislators in the Senate will hopefully remember that expressions of one religion are best kept to private property such as houses and churches, and that naming the tree after one particular religious holiday would be pretty arrogant. More details on the issue were covered on NBC 15, Channel 3000 and by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

You can read more about the fictional “ACLU War on Christmas” or on what work the ACLU has done on the protection of the freedom of religion at the national website.

Fun Stuff
Keith Olbermann reads Tom Tomorrow’s take on Bill O’Riley

Check out Olbermann’s dramatic reading of the Tom Tomorrow cartoon

that portrays the O’Riley harshing on the ACLU and Christmas among other topics. Or view the original cartoon. Did you know that the ACLU of Wisconsin will be welcoming Dan Perkins, aka Tom Tomorrow, at the annual Bill of Rights dinner in Milwaukee on February 16? Contact the ACLU of Wisconsin for the details on how to get tickets.

Action Alert: Sign the petition on the CIA tapes

Stop the CIA cover-up

The C.I.A. admitted to destroying tapes of people being tortured. Demand Attorney General Mukasey appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute wrongdoing.

Sign the petition: Stop the C.I.A. cover-up.

When a defendant admits to destroying key evidence, it’s typically called "obstruction of justice." When the Bush administration admits to destroying evidence of wrongdoing, it’s called business as usual.

Last week, the head of the C.I.A., Michael Hayden, announced the agency destroyed tapes of what he called a "harsh interrogation" and what you and I would call torture. The reason? To protect agency operatives from legal consequences.

We want to get to the bottom of this and the only way to do that is to appoint an independent prosecutor.

Sign our petition: Demand Attorney General Mukasey appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute wrongdoing.

The C.I.A. withheld knowledge of the tapes’ destruction from the House and Senate intelligence committees who oversee the C.I.A. They also withheld the tapes from federal prosecutors and the 9/11 Commission even though they were specifically asked for depictions of interrogations. According to the former director of the 9/11 Commission, this could amount to obstruction of justice.

Thankfully, members of Congress are already expressing their outrage over this action. On the Senate floor, Senator Kennedy warned his colleagues, "We haven’t seen anything like this since the 18 and a half minute gap in the tapes of Richard Nixon."

Sign our petition: Demand Attorney General Mukasey appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute wrongdoing.

This is a cover-up of epic proportions. So far the attorney general has responded by launching a "preliminary inquiry." But the Justice Department and the C.I.A. cannot be trusted to investigate themselves -- they are the very agencies that authorized and carried out the government's torture program. Only an independent prosecutor can get at the truth.

Attorney General Mukasey now faces his first big test: Will he launch an independent investigation and stick to promises to uphold the rule of law, or will he continue Bush administration practices that put government officials above the law?

We’ll deliver the petition to Attorney General Mukasey and we’ll also copy members of Congress, who can keep the pressure on and pass a law appointing an independent prosecutor if Mukasey won’t do his job.

Sign the petition: Stop the C.I.A. cover-up.

The destruction of these tapes appears to be part of an extensive, long-term pattern of misusing executive authority to insulate individuals from criminal prosecution for torture and abuse.

Now is the time to show that no one is above the law: not the CIA, not the Justice Department, not the President. Thank you for getting involved.

Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Got your orange armband? Close Guantanamo!

A message from ACLU Executive Director, Anthony Romero:
(Romero will be addressing a crowd in Eau Claire on February 7th! Contact the ACLU of Wisconsin for more details - a group from Madison may be carpooling up)

ACLU is calling on people of conscience to wear orange on January 11th to demand the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay and an immediate end to 6 years of injustice.

Make sure you're ready.

Make a contribution to the ACLU today and get a "Close Guantánamo" armband.

On January 11, 2002 the first prisoners from Afghanistan arrived at the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

In the six years since, the prison has been a mark of shame for our country. In fact, three years after the military tribunals were first established there, there has yet to be a single trial completed for any person in custody.

Every day that the prison at Guantánamo stays open is an insult to our values and makes a mockery of our commitment to justice and the rule of law.
That’s why on January 11th, the ACLU is leading a nationwide movement calling on people of conscience to wear orange and demand an immediate end to the injustice at Guantánamo Bay. By standing in solidarity we can shift the debate on this national disgrace. So, we’re teaming up with organizations across the country to demand the prison be closed and asking ACLU members to get involved.

To help you participate in this national day of action, we’re asking ACLU members to wear an orange "Close Guantánamo" armband on January 11. You can get a "Close Guantánamo" armband when you make a contribution to the ACLU today.

The fact is the Bush Administration decided to hold prisoners at Guantánamo because it believed the offshore location would be beyond the reach of our courts. This turned Guantánamo into a laboratory for indefinite detention and cruel treatment.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard two cases that challenge the Bush Administration’s policy of holding prisoners without charging them. As we stated in our brief to the court, "[T]heir confinement in military custody without charges or trial for more than five years violates fundamental principles of due process of law." And, at Guantánamo Bay, the ACLU continued to monitor the latest kangaroo court-style hearing.

Guantánamo has become a stain on our nation's honor. That is why it is so important you join hundreds of thousands of Americans who are demanding the closure of the prison at Guantánamo on January 11th. You’ll soon be hearing about the January events happening across the country and online. In the meantime, you can take the first step to get ready for the January 11 events by making a contribution to the ACLU and get a "Close Guantánamo" armband.

Thank you so much for your involvement today as we fight to reclaim our constitutional heritage and restore the full vibrancy of our democracy.

Thank you,
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director ACLU