Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

ACLU and HRW report discusses how the government is stopping us from doing our jobs

Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 8:00 am by

Two days ago, Senator Patrick Leahy introduced a newer, stronger version of the US FREEDOM Act.  This came upon the heels of the House watering down the legislation.  Privacy groups have thrown support behind this bill. Leading the pack are Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

On July 28, the HRW and ACLU published a joint report, With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy.  The report states that the US’s huge, over sweeping, large-scale surveillance hinders US-based lawyers and journalists from doing their work. That surveillance has implicated both our First and Sixth Amendment rights by undermining media freedom and the right to counsel.

Based on interviews with journalists, lawyers, and US government officials, the 120-page report describes how journalists and lawyers must modify their work and practices in order to keep confidential information secure due to the government’s surveillance of electronic communications.


After the House watered it down, Sen. Leahy introduces a new US FREEDOM Act.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 7:55 am by

Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation that would restore Americans’ privacy rights by ending the government’s dragnet collection of phone records and requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability with respect to domestic surveillance authorities.

freedom act

The updated version of the USA FREEDOM Act released yesterday builds on legislation passed in the House in May, as well as the original legislation Leahy introduced with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) last October. The legislation bans bulk collection under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and other surveillance authorities, requires the government to narrow the scope of a search to a clearly defined “specific selection term,” adds needed transparency and reporting requirements, and provides key reforms to the FISA Court. In an editorial on Monday, the New York Times wrote “the bill represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power.”

Leahy noted the legislation provides significant reforms of surveillance authorities, while carefully maintaining the role of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and their responsibility to protect national security.

In his floor statement, Leahy said:

“If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act 13 years ago,” Leahy said in a floor statement.  This is an historic opportunity, and I am grateful that the bill has the support of the administration, a wide range of privacy and civil liberties groups, and the technology industry.”


Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC July Newsletter

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 6:08 pm by

Constitution in Crisis

July 2014, Vol. 13 No. 07

Journalists reveal government monitoring political activists

Earlier this month, journalists revealed the names of five American targets of the NSA’s surveillance dragnet.  This was the first time that Americans who have never been arrested, or even suspected of terrorist activity, have been individually identified as targets for government monitoring.

Since the story was published, Greenwald has spoken candidly about the reasons for his delay in reporting the names, as well as why it matters. As he explained to Wired magazine, “This is the first time that there’s a human face on who the targets are….I think it’s important for people to judge—are these really terrorists or are these people who seem to be targeted for their political dissidence and their political activism?”

BORDC Analysis

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Have you read BORDC’s blog lately? The People’s Blog for the Constitution features news & analysis beyond the headlines.

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To view campaigns supported by BORDC at a glance, visit our interactive campaign maps for local coalitions addressing surveillance and profiling by local law enforcement, or military detention under the NDAA. To get involved in any of these efforts, please email the BORDC Organizing Team at organizing (at) bordc (dot) org. We’re eager to hear from you and help support your activism!

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Missouri to vote on protection of digital privacy, but will the Feds respect it?

Monday, July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am by

yes on 9On August 5, Missouri voters will decide in a referendum whether to expand its state constitution’s privacy protections to electronic communications and data. This follows the overwhelming approval of the measure by Missouri’s state legislature, where the state House of Representatives approved it by a vote of 114-28 and the state Senate had only one dissenting vote.

The ballot question, known as Amendment 9, would change the Missouri State Constitution to read:

“Section 15. That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes [and], effects, and electronic communications and data, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, or access electronic data or communication, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, or the data or communication to be accessed, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.”

The proposed revision comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision this past June regarding the privacy status of cell phones. In the US Supreme Court decisions in  Riley v. California and US v. Wurie, the court unanimously ruled that police must acquire a warrant to search a person’s cell phone. The cases involved arrested suspects whose cell phones were searched without warrant and the evidence found used against them in prosecution.  Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that “modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.” (more…)

BORDC welcomes new Communications Specialist

Friday, July 25, 2014 at 10:00 am by

BeccaRebecca Bodner is BORDC’s new Communications Specialist.  Becca is based in BORDC’s New England office in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Prior to joining BORDC, Becca served as a public defender in both Massachusetts and Connecticut.  In those roles, she developed deep interest and and extensive experience in litigating complex issues specifically related to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the US Constitution.

Prior to law school, Becca served as a student journalist and was a contributing writer to newspapers in and around the Boston area, as well as with USA Today. She brings to the organization not only excellent writing skills, but also a well-developed sense of professionalism honed across her prior experiences.  She is poised not only to help expand BORDC’s reach, but also to play a leadership role within the organization and to enhance the work of her colleagues.

Please read Becca’s biography for more information: (more…)

Restore the Fourth works to strengthen the USA FREEDOM Act

Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 am by

Restore the Fourth’s Chicago chapter rang in July in a lively fashion. After the House of Representatives watering down the proposed USA FREEDOM Act to resemble “little more than a Trojan horse” languishing in congressional purgatory, privacy advocates reached out to US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) to invite him to strengthen the bill’s incarnation in the Senate.

In an email correspondence, organizer John Bumstead said his organization has engaged both Durbin’s office and the media. The group’s efforts focus on eliminating from the proposed legislation its measure extending for an additional two years beyond its present 2015 expiration date the sunset for Section 215 powers  under the Patriot Act.


RT4 Chicago is planning a weekly flyering/postcard campaign in support of a Patriot Act Section 215 sunset pledge, which would formally usher the controversial law out of existence by adhering to the 2015 expiration date. Bumstead says the campaign’s rationale lies in the relative ease of convincing legislators to not vote for something to continue as opposed to sticking their necks out in support of something. He adds the campaign may also switch gears as necessary to focus on other topics, such as killing the USA FREEDOM Act if his group is dissatisfied with the resulting bill.

Chicago residents moved by RT4’s work attended a public meeting on July 3 at Chicago’s CivicLab and are organizing an RT4-wide event in honor of Orwell Day on August 4.

Torture awareness month events organized across the nation

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 6:00 pm by

tortureIn February 1998, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared June 26 to be the International Day of Support for the Victims of Torture. Human rights advocates across the globe join together on this day each year in an effort to raise awareness about inhumane abuse and express solidarity with survivors.

In Los Angeles, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace hosted the Close Guantánamo Justice Luncheon at United University Church, welcoming attorneys Anne Richardson and Michael Rapkin, each of whom represents detainees at the world’s most notorious prison camp. The event brought together people from a variety of religious communities, exposing the realities of American-sponsored torture at home and abroad.

Numerous legal and advocacy organizations in Chicago worked together to lead a town hall meeting on torture at the Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Drawing upon the Convention Against Torture, a legally binding document ratified by the US in 1994, this town hall meeting focused on prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement practices by the Chicago Police Department. In addition to demanding an end to all torture practices throughout the nation, this event called upon the Governor of the State of Illinois to pardon all victims of torture and recognize their right to rehabilitation.

Finally, the fight to end US-sponsored torture and other human rights abuses emerged in our nation’s capital, where the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)  recognized Syracuse University Law professor David Crane with the 2014 Eclipse Award for his work to fight against impunity for torture. More recently, Crane has played a pivotal role in revealing the injustices perpetrated by the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad. The event also hosted David Luban, a professor at Georgetown University College of Law, and Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador at Large and Director of the US State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Guided by CVT Executive Director Curt Goering, these distinguished experts discussed principles to fighting impunity, and the challenges that emerge in implementing them.

For more information about how you can join the fight against torture email


Cornel West supports Mothers Against Police Brutality

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 12:24 pm by

policeHundreds flocked to Dallas’s Friendship-West Baptist Church on June 20 as renowned intellectual Dr. Cornel West spoke at a town hall meeting sponsored by Mothers Against Police Brutality (MAPB) . West spoke with passion and candor on the desperate reality of police overstepping their authority and encouraged those in attendance to join the fight against police brutality.

“Dr. West’s message was exhilarating, uplifting, challenging and painfully truthful. His message left seeds of hope and uprooted some deep seedlings of oppression in the Dallas communities,” said MAPB founder Collette Flanagan. “Our sense of responsibility and ownership in our families and community was awakened.” Flanagan says her organization has registered more volunteers than ever before and credited MAPB supporters for “stepping up to the plate.”

MAPB’s next event is a public hearing for families that have lost loved ones to police brutality. The group will be inviting city officials, Dallas Police Chief Brown and local and state politicians. Flanagan feels it’s important for them to see the carnage left behind when unarmed children are killed by policemen and “stolen” from their families. Planning is underway to hold the event in August.

Connecticut prohibits civil immigration detainers

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm by

Though the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) controversial Secure Communities program reportedly aims to deport illegal immigrants with criminal records, more than 30 percent of those deported under this program have never been convicted of any crime, much less a serious one. With the unanimous passage of the Trust Act in May 2013, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass legislation limiting its participation in the Secure Communities program, a massive federally-run program launched in 2008.


Under the program, the fingerprint records of every person booked by local police can be checked against both Department of Homeland Security and FBI biometric databases. The invasive program has resulted in widespread racial profiling by police officers and further degradation of community trust in law enforcement.

Earlier this month, despite its resistance, the city of East Haven, Connecticut settled a lawsuit to further limit their police department’s participation in the enforcement of civil immigration laws, making it the first jurisdiction in the state to decline to enforce any immigration detainers. With the help of Yale law students and the Worker and Immigration Rights Advocacy Clinicnine East Haven citizens received justice after enduring police brutality, unlawful searches and seizures, and illegal detention, among other harms.

With the establishment of Policy 428.2, East Haven has adopted some of the most rigid constraints on immigration enforcement of any city in the United States. The decision in East Haven has been welcomed by local immigration organizations and advocates throughout the state, which are calling for an expansion of Connecticut’s Trust Act, signed in 2013.

For more information about how immigration enforcement has become a pretext to undermine the biometric privacy of US citizens, or action opportunities to protect biometric privacy where you live, email


Sandra Ordonez recognized with BORDC Patriot Award

Monday, July 21, 2014 at 10:29 am by


Each month, BORDC recognizes an individual who has done outstanding work in support of civil liberties and the rule of law by honoring that person with our Patriot Award. This month we honor Sandra Ordonez from New York City for her work on preserving civil liberties in regards the use of technology to support unconstitutional mass surveillance.

By day, Sandra works with the Open Internet Tools Project (OpenITP), which supports the software creators and communities behind open source anti-surveillance and anti-censorship tools that enable citizens to communicate directly and freely with each other. OpenITP’s mission is to help the communities that build these tools and to improve and increase the distribution of these circumvention tools, which are built by activists and journalists internationally.

“Protecting privacy and the freedom of thought and speech” is my work, Sandra told BORDC.  Though she works for OpenITP, Sandra continues to get more involved on a local level.  “I started to get more involved because we have several surveillance issues here in New York,” she said in talking about how Muslim Americans have been watched in the city.  “[The New York Police Department] uses tactics that really go against civil liberties, which no American should be subjected to.  So I try to help communities and activists protect themselves.” (more…)