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.
If you follow our blog then you know that Maine’s privacy laws are among the best in the country. Earlier this year we led the successful effort requiring law enforcement in Maine to get a warrant before accessing data created on or generated by your cellphone.
The front page of today’s New York Times featured an excellent article titled “Seeing the Toll, Schools Revise Zero Tolerance.” It spoke to a growing movement by school administrators in big cities to reconsider "zero-tolerance" policies and other "tough on crime" approaches in light of the effects that they are having on today's young people.
Nearly twelve years have passed since the first prisoner arrived in Guantánamo Bay, making it the longest-standing war prison in U.S. history. Today the prison holds 164 detainees, and it is no less a symbol of our nation’s failure to adhere to the rule of law and human rights than it was in 2002 when it first began housing prisoners.
On Sunday evening I took part in an exciting panel discussion in Porter on the issue of public financing and money in politics. These are complicated topics, and ones that good people frequently disagree over. And as yesterday’s packed house evidenced, it’s an issue that many Mainers are thinking heavily about as we get ready to enter a gubernatorial election year.