Last year the ACLU released a groundbreaking report that chronicled in remarkable detail the vast racial injustices that persist throughout the United States with respect to enforcement of marijuana laws. It was not a pretty picture, but it was a story that had to be told.
Just a few hours ago the ACLU was honored to host the first live interview with whistleblower Edward Snowden since his bombshell revelations about government spying last year. The “virtual conversation” took place at the SXSW Initiative, a massive technology festival held every year in Texas, and featured a highly-secure live video feed of Snowden.
As I write this blog, I’m gazing across the Saint John River onto the beautiful snowy slopes of the Canadian countryside. My location is Madawaska, a picturesque little community that proudly calls itself “the most northeastern town in the United States.” While one could certainly justify taking a vacation here, that is not my purpose. I’m here on an educational mission, and my objective is clear: teach tomorrow’s leaders about the Bill of Rights.
February 11th is a big day in mass surveillance. No, the government isn’t debuting round-the-clock aerial surveillance – although that could be coming soon. Rather, Tuesday is a big day because it’s a chance for us all to fight back against the idea that we should be watched and spied upon by our own government for no reason.
February is Black History Month and this year it carries some added weight due to a very special anniversary: It’s been 50 years since Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a landmark moment in the struggle against discrimination and inequality.
We’re part of a group that’s organizing a year-long series of events to commemorate this special anniversary, which will not only look back at what the Civil Rights Act meant in the 1960’s, but also look ahead to see how we can continue the movement towards equity and justice in the face of continued resistance.
Here in Maine, any loving couple that wants to get married can do so. But in most states around the country, that’s still not the case. The ACLU wants to highlight this unfair patchwork of state marriage laws, and so we’re doing the most fitting thing: we’re throwing some big, gay (il)legal weddings!
Last year our education program reached 41 different schools from all 16 counties. We did this through a combination of three student conferences in the fall and more than 20 classroom visits during the spring semester. This year we’re hoping to increase that number even more, and with most high schools a week away from midterms we’ve been busy getting ready to hit the road as soon as the spring semester begins.
Though he narrowly finished behind Pope Francis as a runner-up for Time’s 2013 Person of the Year, Edward Snowden no doubt had a significant impact on the world last year. The reverberations from his revelations on government spying are still being felt, and if we do indeed see progress on privacy issues in the year ahead there is no doubt that Snowden should share a considerable amount of the credit.
We received very good news today out of Washington when a federal judge ruled that the National Security Agency’s phone collection program is likely unconstitutional. Although the ruling is stayed pending appeal, the message from the bench was clear and we’re hopeful this is a sign of even bigger things to come in the legal fight over mass government surveillance.