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This Week in Civil Liberties (01/31/2014)

Rekha Arulanantham,
Litigation Fellow,
ACLU National Prison Project
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January 31, 2014

In what state are politicians considering a bill that would allow hospital staff to refuse to participate in any phase of patient care related to ending a pregnancy?

True or false: Scott Roeder, convicted of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, is seeking a lesser sentence on the basis that his use of deadly force was justified because he truly believed in what he was doing.

Last week, the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) called for an end to what government agency’s massive spying program?

What 2008 law gives the NSA its authority to engage in dragnet surveillance?

What government official visited border communities this week to meet with state and local law enforcement officials and “other stakeholders,” but excluded local residents outraged by civil rights violations by Border Patrol agents?

Alabama Hospitals To Pregnant Women – “Sorry, honey, we won’t help you here.”
All miscarriages can be devastating. But, for women in Alabama, this nightmare could soon get a lot worse. This week, the Alabama Senate is set to consider a cruel bill (HB 31) that would permit the hospital staff, including any doctor, nurse, counselor, or lab technician, to refuse to participate in any phase of patient medical care related to ending a pregnancy, even if that is what a patient like this woman needs to protect her own health and future fertility.

Murder is Murder
Almost five years ago, the life of a man – a physician and father of four widely regarded as kind, compassionate, and dedicated to his patients – was abruptly ended. On a Sunday in late May of 2009, while Dr. George Tiller handed out flyers at his church in Wichita, Kansas, he was shot in the head at point blank range by Scott Roeder. What had Dr. Tiller done wrong? He was a doctor who provided legal, constitutionally protected medical care to women. But all Scott Roeder saw was an abortion provider, and Scott Roeder believes that abortion is wrong.

The NSA’s Shadow Database
Last week saw the release of yet another independent report condemning the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. In its report, the PCLOB called for an end to the program, concluding that it is unlawful, threatens the privacy of Americans, and does little to keep the country secure. Its recommendations reflect a deepening public consensus that President Obama and Congress must do more to halt the NSA’s efforts to vacuum up as much of our personal data as possible.

NSA Spy Target Challenges Warrantless Wiretapping Law
This week the ACLU joined a new challenge to the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) — the surveillance law that gives the NSA virtually unfettered access to the international phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens and residents. Disclosures over the last eight months have confirmed that the NSA is using the law to engage in dragnet surveillance, siphoning communications off the Internet backbone and also collecting them directly from companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others.

Southwest Border Tour Excludes Border Communities
Newly confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson wrapped up a two-day visit to the southwest border region last week, starting in McAllen, Texas, and ending in Tucson, Ariz. The stated purpose of the trip was to “tour border operations, receive briefings on the department’s efforts to secure the border while facilitating lawful travel and trade, and meet with state and local law enforcement officials and other stakeholders.”

“Stakeholders” largely excluded from Johnson’s itinerary, however, were border residents—many of whom are increasingly outraged by the militarization of their communities and widespread civil rights violations by Border Patrol agents.

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