Posts Tagged ‘First Amendment’

Fusion centers perpetuate racial profiling

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 8:50 am by

racialprofilingApril 10 saw protests, teach-ins and light brigade actions across the country as part of the national day of action against fusion centers. The Day of Action sparked an internet dialogue about fusion centers that shone much needed light on the centers which can often slip under the radar of the communities they operate in.

Like most threats to civil liberties, fusion centers endanger the constitutional rights guaranteed to all people, however their effect is most pronounced in politically vulnerable communities. These are most often communities of color, those with political beliefs outside the mainstream, or both.


When the NSA & universities collaborate: a discussion with leading privacy experts at Johns Hopkins University

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 10:17 am by

bca8e39ceOn Tuesday, April 15, BORDC executive director, Shahid Buttar, spoke on a panel with privacy experts, Christopher Soghoian, ACLU Technologist, Matt Green and Joel Andreas, Johns Hopkins University professors, to discuss ways the intelligence community has begun to co-opt our higher education system. Each year the NSA gives millions of dollars to universities around the country in the form of scholarships, research grants, training, technology, and promises of jobs to students. This degree of influence and the bias it creates is concerning, particularly in the way the issues of mass surveillance is addressed and responded to on these campuses. Below is video from the evening’s discussion.

Missouri law embodies spirit of Fourth Amendment

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 10:46 am by

missouri-sealMissouri is laying out the law plain and simple: there will be no warrantless searches of electronic data and communications in their state. On April 3, the Missouri Senate passed legislation that would give electronic data and communications the same Fourth Amendment protections as “persons, houses, papers, or effects.”

Free Speech, RIP: A Relic of the American Past

Monday, March 3, 2014 at 11:06 am by

Original commentary by John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute on March 3, 2014.

free_speechLiving in a representative republic means that each person has the right to take a stand for what they think is right, whether that means marching outside the halls of government, wearing clothing with provocative statements, or simply holding up a sign. That’s what the First Amendment is supposed to be about.

Unfortunately, as I show in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American  Police State, through a series of carefully crafted legislative steps and politically expedient court rulings, government officials have managed to disembowel this fundamental freedom, rendering it with little more meaning than the right to file a lawsuit against government officials. In fact, if the following court rulings are anything to go by, the First Amendment has, for all intents and purposes, become an exercise in futility.

On February 26, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling, held that anti-nuclear activist John Denis Apel could be prosecuted for staging a protest on a public road at an Air Force base, free speech claims notwithstanding, because the public road is technically government property.

Democratic process challenges use of DHS surveillance cameras

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 11:35 am by

camera-500x333From 2008 to 2010, Boston and eight surrounding cities and towns installed surveillance cameras provided by a grant through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Urban Areas Security Initiative. DHS’ website describes the cameras as part of a system that has “nine, independent and interoperable nodes tied together through a central hub and is made up of over 100 cameras.”  The cameras were justified for the protection of “critical infrastructure” from terrorist attack, but their use has faced scrutiny from citizens concerned about threats to civil liberties. In Brookline and Cambridge, two municipalities covered by the grant, residents are using local governments to attempt to ban surveillance cameras.


New digital eraser law and youth privacy

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 11:30 am by


It’s no secret that teens are avid internet users, a fact that exposes them to both opportunities and risks. The risks range from online predators to predatory marketing, oversharing to government surveillance, which could collect a lifetime of private information if it continues on its current path. This is cause for concern for all Americans, but especially for young people developing their judgment and understanding of long-term consequences.

California, among other states, has begun to address the risks of youthful oversharing: the state recently passed a “minor-eraser” law, which grants youth under age 18 the right to have the social media content they post removed by website or mobile app operators. Content need not be deleted entirely, so long as it is invisible to others. In addition, websites targeting minors are prohibited from advertising 19 enumerated products, including certain weapons and drugs.

FBI’s Suspicious Activity Reports threaten privacy and first amendment

Friday, November 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm by

fbiIs an upside down American flag a reasonable indication of criminal activity? What about a group of young Middle Eastern men speaking a non-English language? Does the presence of Muslim women at a shopping mall suggest an intent to commit a crime? Is an artist photographing buildings necessarily a terrorist threat? According to the FBI, these first amendment protected actions are suspicious activities. These are all examples from the summaries of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) acquired by the ACLU and originally produced by the Central California Intelligence Center and the Joint Regional Intelligence Center.

The stated purpose of SARs is to collect information about criminal activity that may be related to “terrorist pre-operational planning,” which can then be shared among the different levels of the government. These reports could be issued by local law enforcement officers or could be the result of tips from the public.


Leftists to Libertarians unite in one voice, tells the government to “Stop Watching Us”

Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 11:00 am by

This past Saturday, October 26, BORDC was proud to be one of over a hundred co-sponsors of the Stop Watching Us Rally Against Mass Surveillance in Washington, DC. It was an inspiring testament of how people can bridge political divides in defense of our constitutional values, rights, and protection from warrantless surveillance.

The day started with an 11:30 gathering at Union Square, where several people were interviewed, explaining their concerns about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).  Russ Tice, a former NSA agent turned whisteblower, discussed how he “blew the whistle on the NSA illegally and unconstitutionally spying domestically on the American people” in 2004. When asked what his hopes were for the demonstration he stated, “Hopefully Congress will pay attention and if we get the attention of the American people maybe they’ll wake up and realize that something has to be done about this, that this is a crime that is being committed against them, our citizens.”


The Senate Is Busy Creating a Privileged 1st Amendment Club for ‘Official’ Journalists

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 9:00 am by

Originally published on Alternet (
By Carey Shenkman

censorshipOn September 12, 2013, the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee narrowly defined who the law should consider to be a journalist, by amending [3] the proposed Free Flow of Information Act (“FFIA”). The FFIA is a “shield law” that protects journalists from having to reveal their confidential sources when confronted with court subpoenas. The amendment changed the language of the bill from protecting the activity of journalism to protecting the profession. Journalists are now limited to those employed by, recently employed by, or substantially contributing to media organizations for certain minimum durations.

This maneuver skirts the substantial investigative role served by independent journalists, bloggers, and nontraditional media, who are left unprotected by the statute. It also expressly excludes whistleblower organizations. By not extending protection to a vital segment of investigative newsgatherers, the amended FFIA falls short of providing real benefits. More fundamentally, the distinctions created by the bill reinforce a privileged club for journalists. In essence, the government is licensing the press, and treading down a path that courts have for decades cautioned [4] “present[s] practical and conceptual difficulties of a high order.”


News Digest 08/05/13

Monday, August 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm by