The Snowden revelations about NSA activities have brought government access to online data into the public eye over the past year. Allegations that surveillance programs may have impacted American citizens have led to public outrage. In response, the president has promised to reform the U.S. government surveillance apparatus to “provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons.”
Long before the Snowden revelations, enhancing the privacy of U.S. persons was the focus of less-visible efforts to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a law enacted well before the Internet era that allows law enforcement access to a panoply of electronic information held by third-party information service providers without first obtaining a warrant.
In December 2013, more than 100,000 Americans signed an online petition calling on the Obama administration to support ECPA reform. Although a warm spring finally is emerging in Washington, D.C., the White House has remained silent as reform bills (e.g.,S. 607 and H.R. 1847) remain frozen in Congress.
The Justice Department has long faced criticism from civil rights activists for its racial profiling procedures. In response, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has proposed revisions to the racial profiling rules which would “expand the definition of prohibited profiling.” However, many argue that the DOJ’s new efforts would “allow the F.B.I. to continue many, if not all, of the tactics opposed by civil rights groups.” Matt Apuzzo at The New York Times has the story.
Earlier this morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit heard the “first appellate case in the nation on gay marriage rights since last summer’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.” Led by attorney Peggy A. Tomsic, the plaintiffs shared with the judges “the ‘human reality’ at the heart of the case” and explained how Utah’s ban on gay marriage "has ‘cemented’ discrimination against same-sex couples.” Brooke Adams at The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the argument.
The Obama administration is “relinquishing oversight” over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Gautham Nagesh at The Wall Street Journal explains how “Republicans concerned about the Commerce Department’s plan are pushing legislation to block the transition.”
Today, President Obama will speak at the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, honoring the memory of President Lyndon Johnson and his contributions to the civil rights movement. Writing for The Hill, Justin Sink comments on the summit being held at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.
by Harley Geiger, Senior Counsel and Deputy Project Director, Center for Democracy & Technology
The police are at your door. They say they want to search the papers you keep in your house. What do you tell them? “Show me your warrant.”
But what if the police come a-knocking at your email service provider, your online social network, or your cloud storage provider? The police say they want to search your private digital communications, which together add up to much more content than the papers you keep in your house. The service provider may demand a warrant, and the government could respond “We don’t need a warrant. Under ECPA, we only need a subpoena.”
At The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen discusses “secession by attrition” in which a collection of senators are “starving the federal courts of the trial judges they need to serve the basic legal needs of the litigants who come to court each year seeking redress of their grievances.”
Writing for Daily Kos, Jon Perr criticizes Politico’s recent piece “Obama now outpaces George W. Bush on judges,” for its misleading message. While the Obama administration has made some “headway” against Senate Republicans’ egregious obstruction of the president’s judicial nominations, Perr reveals how Politico’s data shows that President Obama’s nominations have been “confirmed at a lower rate than President Bush’s.”
Yesterday, President Obama signed two executive orders that “will prevent retaliation against employees who disclose compensation information and will require businesses to include race and gender information when reporting compensation data.” Keli Goff at The Root comments on this critical step towards ensuring workplace equality.
At the Daily Journal, Richard L. Hasen discusses Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and the "faux judicial restraint" of the chief justice’s “gradualism.”
Michelle Olsen at Appellate Daily notes a recent petition to the high court requesting oral argument in a case involving threats made on Facebook.
Writing for Verdict, Michael C. Dorf compares last week’s decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission with the political philosophy of fictional House of Cards majority whip Francis Underwood to reveal “a Court with an utterly benighted view of politics.” At CAC’s Text & History Blog, Brianne Gorod notes how Chief Justice John Roberts’ ruling in McCutcheon is inconsistent with his stated beliefs as a judge on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
While the Affordable Care Act remains “too entrenched, among consumers and providers, either to fail on its own or be dispatched by legislative ‘repeal,’” its opponents continue to resist the law, bringing lawsuits that could “wreak havoc beyond the exchanges.” Writing for The New Republic, Simon Lazarus explains what needs to be done to counter these challenges.
The Obama administration continues to face criticism for its deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally. Ginger Thompson and Sarah Cohen of The New York Times reveal how an “examination of the administration’s record shows how the disconnect evolved between the president’s stated goal of blunting what he called the harsh edge of immigration enforcement and the reality that has played out.”
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to grant certiorari in a case asking whether a business can “refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers.” Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog breaks down Elane Photography v. Willock and other orders from the high court.
Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic reviews former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, and highlights the justice’s change of heart on the constitutionality of capital punishment.