Edward's blog


Talk about great timing. 

On Tuesday, the ACLU of Maine and privacy advocates testified before the Judiciary Committee in favor of a bill to put reasonable limits on law enforcement use of drones for surveillance. "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use," sponsored by Sen. John Patrick (D-Rumford), would require a warrant in most cases before police could use the unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance.

Next week,  the Maine Legislature's Judiciary Committee will conduct a public hearing on LD 236 (SP 72), "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Citizens from Domestic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Use."   LD 236 would place state limits on domestic drone use, including requiring a warrant or court order for law enforcement purposes.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Jared Polis have released a report titled The Path Forward: Rethinking Federal Marijuana Policy.  It's a worthwhile read as a reminder of the staggering financial and personal costs of federal laws criminalizing a drug less addictive than alcohol or tobacco.

Some key points:
Web genius and pioneer Aaron Swartz never should have faced prosecution.

His "crime" was violating the terms of service for an online academic library called JSTOR by systematically downloading content from the site.  Aaron did not profit, distribute or even read the articles he downloaded.  He even returned what he took.  JSTOR would eventually make millions of these articles free to the public.

From a civil liberties perspective, Obama's first term was a disappointment.  We still have Guantanamo, Indefinite Detention, Targeted Killings, warrantless surveillance of Americans and a immigrants bring detained and deported in record numbers.

In our era of expanded tracking technologies that rapidly outpace our laws, there's a lot of work to be done to get back in line with the Fourth Amendment if we want to provide reasonable protections against warrantless surveillance.

The mere fact that the police are capable of tracking someone doesn’t mean they’re entitled to do so without first getting a warrant, any more than the mere fact that it’s easy to break down someone’s front door or open their postal mail gives the police the right to take these steps without a warrant.

This past week was a great example of how our work in Maine can impact broader reform efforts across the country. 

Solitary Confinement:
Our advocacy around solitary reform helped spur significant reductions in the rates of solitary confinement at the Maine State Prison.   Maine Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte even testified at an April hearing in Illinois about the potential closing of the controversial Tamms Correctional Center, which holds prisoners in long-term solitary confinement, often for a decade or more.

Last week, the Senate voted to extend the FISA Amendments Act for another five years and President Obama quickly signed the bill into law. 

The ACLU of Maine's work to protect voting rights is, for me, the highlight of 2012.

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights will hold a landmark hearing entitled, Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline. It is the first time a congressional panel will look at this disturbing national trend where children are pushed out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems because of an over reliance on punitive schoo


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