Tuesday, February 5, 2008

ACLU Online update - national news

February 1 , 2008

Congress Must Stand Up to Bush's Protect America Act

Tell Congress: Stand Up to Bush's Scare Tactics!

With the deadline for renewing the FISA-gutting “Protect America Act” looming, President Bush once again resorted to fear-mongering during Monday's State of the Union address when he claimed that the "flow of vital intelligence" would be disrupted without an extension. Congress, in turn, extended the Protect America Act through Friday, February 15.

Is this 15-day extension a victory for civil liberties? If Congress uses the extension wisely, it gives more time to make real changes that protect the rule of law and bring spying in line with the Constitution. It could also be a prelude to another Congressional cave-in, but not if we have anything to say about it.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Senate will be finalizing and voting on its spying bill. The ACLU, its hundreds of thousands of members and millions of Americans who believe in the rule of law and want their privacy protected are calling on the Senate to stand up to President Bush's fear-mongering.

The ACLU will remain unwavering in our demands. Tell the Senate to stand up to President Bush on telecom immunity and reject massive, untargeted surveillance without a warrant.

>> Take action: Tell your senators to oppose any bill with telecom immunity or warrantless spying on Americans.

>> Get the Facts: Debunking Bush's Fear-Mongering

Federal Judge Orders CIA and Defense Department to Produce Torture Documents

As a result of an ACLU Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, a federal judge ordered the government to produce documents related to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas to determine for himself if they should be made public.

“Given the evidence of widespread and systemic abuse of prisoners, it is entirely appropriate for the judge to view these documents for himself instead of taking the government's word for why they should be kept secret," said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU.

The documents the judge will view include:
- Department of Defense documents relating to the deaths of prisoners; allegations of prisoner abuse; and interrogations that deviate from those permitted by the current Army Field Manual;

- A September 17, 2001 CIA Presidential Directive setting up secret CIA detention centers abroad;

- CIA documents gathered by the agency's Inspector General in the course of investigations into unlawful and improper conduct by CIA personnel; and

- Documents discussing the CIA's secret detention and interrogation program.

The judge is still considering the ACLU's motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying thousands of hours of videotape depicting the abusive interrogations of two detainees in its custody. The ACLU charges that by destroying the tapes, the CIA violated a September 2004 court order requiring the agency to produce or identify records that fell within the scope of its FOIA request.

>> Read more about the ACLU's FOIA request.

ACLU Asks Federal Appeals Court to Lift Ban on Renowned Scholar

The ACLU recently appealed a ruling to challenge the government’s exclusion of Tariq Ramadan, a renowned Swiss scholar, from the U.S. The ACLU believes that the government’s stated reason for barring the scholar is a pretext and that Ramadan, a leading European academic, remains banned from the country because of his political viewpoints.

"The Bush administration has barred Professor Ramadan from the U.S. for more than three years now -- first by alleging without basis that he endorsed terrorism, then saying that it would take years to consider his visa application, and now pointing to charitable donations that were entirely legal at the time they were made,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.

The government originally revoked Ramadan’s visa in 2004 based on the so-called “ideological exclusion” provision of the Patriot Act, a provision that applies to individuals who have “endorsed or espoused” terrorism, because he made small donations to a Swiss charity that provides aid to the Palestinians. This revocation prevented Ramadan from taking up a tenured teaching post at the University of Notre Dame. The government later abandoned its claim when it could not produce any evidence that Ramadan had endorsed terrorism. On the contrary, Ramadan has been a consistent and vocal critic of terrorism and those who use it.

>> Read more about the Ramadan case, the history of ideological exclusion at: http://www.aclu.org/exclusion

Become a Guardian of Liberty Today—You Can Make the Difference

Every day all across the nation, the ACLU is called on to defend the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Guardians of Liberty are dedicated ACLU members who have made the commitment to support all this critical work with a monthly contribution.

These monthly gifts help the ACLU meet the costs of increased litigation, expanded grassroots mobilization, and widespread public education that are needed for a vigorous and successful defense of liberty.

As a Guardian of Liberty you can help make sure that no challenge to any of these rights goes unanswered. A modest monthly contribution of $25, $20 or even $15 provides the vital support that the ACLU needs.

As a Guardian you will receive special monthly updates on our work, and your membership in the ACLU will automatically renew.

Keep Freedom’s Flame Alive. Become a Guardian of Liberty Today!

ACLU Asks Federal Court to Block Use of Unfair Voting Technology in Ohio

The ACLU filed a motion this week asking federal Judge Kathleen O'Malley of the Northern District of Ohio to prevent the Ohio Secretary of State and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections from using balloting technology that does not give notice to voters of problems with their ballot. The motion follows a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on January 17 challenging the constitutionality of this technology.

"Every voter who goes to the polls must have the opportunity to verify his or her ballot is free from errors," said ACLU Voting Rights Project attorney Meredith Bell-Platts. "The evidence is overwhelming that when voters do not have access to technology that notifies them of ballot errors, many more ballots are left uncounted."

Recently, the Ohio Secretary of State Brunner and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections opted to implement ballots that do not provide notice of problems with votes. Cuyahoga County, which contains Columbus and surrounding areas, is the only county in Ohio whose current process does not allow notice to voters of problems with their ballot.

On January 22, the Ohio Association of Election Officials, a non-partisan organization representing Ohio's elections officials, voted unanimously against the sweeping changes Brunner has proposed, particularly emphasizing that counties should not adopt any voting technology that prevents voters from verifying their ballots are filled out correctly.

>> Read about the case.

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