National security and civil liberties

  • March 28, 2014
    Guest Post
    by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Professor of Law and an ACS Faculty Advisor at the University of Chicago Law School; former Chair, ACS Board of Directors
     
    This post originally appeared at The Daily Beast.
     
    President Obama announced this morning that he will propose legislation calling for significant changes in the NSA’s telephone metadata program. This is good news, indeed.
     
    The enactment of these proposals would strike a much better balance between the interests of liberty and security. They would preserve the value of the NSA’s program in terms of protecting the national security, while at the same time providing much greater, and much needed, protection to individual privacy and civil liberties.
     
    The proposals are based on recommendations made by the president’s five-member Review Group, of which I was a member. To understand why we came up with these suggestions, it is necessary first to understand how the program operates.
     
    Under the telephone metadata program, which was created in 2006, telephone service companies like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T are required to turn over to the NSA, on an ongoing daily basis, huge quantities of telephone metadata involving the phone records of millions of Americans, none of whom are themselves suspected of anything.
     
    Even though the program to-date has functioned properly, history teaches that there is always the risk of another J. Edgar Hoover or Richard Nixon.
     
  • March 28, 2014
     
    Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed, pending litigation, a district court decision that had struck down parts of Texas’ controversial abortion law. The key provisions of the law, “pertaining to hospital privileges for physicians who perform abortions and protocols for abortion-inducing drugs,” have ignited ardent protest from Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups. Greg Botelho at CNN follows this decision.
     
    The Obama administration has announced its plan to reform the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records. Adam Serwer at MSNBC discusses how these changes will impact the NSA and the concerns that remain regarding “bulk preservation.”
     
    Writing for Balkinization, David Gans urges the Supreme Court to “recognize that the rights of Hobby Lobby’s thousands of employees—who have deeply held beliefs and convictions of their own—are at stake here, too.”
     
    Last year, the Supreme Court struck down the “preclearance” provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, “a critical tool that prevented discrimination.” At The Root, Julian Bond urges Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act to ensure that “minorities have an equal voice in our democracy.”
     
    Josh Gerstein at Politico reports on the 13-month sentence that may await a former State Department contractor who leaked classified information to Fox News.

     

  • March 25, 2014


    This morning, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. Adam Liptak of The New York Times provides a helpful analysis of the cases while Robert Barnes at The Washington Post breaks down the “vocally devout justices” and the role religion may play in their decision. For more discussion, watch an ACS briefing on the dual challenges known as the “contraception mandate cases.”
     
    Twenty-three years ago, Anita Hill accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. In an interview with Hill, Dahlia Lithwick at Slate reviews the new documentary Anita and describes how “Hill’s testimony had a huge impact on sexual harassment law, and in the public discourse.”
     
    Officials in Mississippi are waiting for approval from the state supreme court to execute Michelle Byrom, a mentally ill woman accused of murdering her husband. Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic explains why “the case of Michelle Byrom contains the unholy trinity of constitutional flaws sadly so common in these capital cases.”
     
    The Obama administration is expected to propose “an end to the [National Security Agency’s] mass collection of Americans' phone call data.” The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman has the story.
     
    Karen Tani at Legal History Blog reviews The Crusade for Equality in the Workplace: The Griggs v. Duke Power Story by the late Robert Belton.

     

  • March 21, 2014
     
    Writing for The Global Legal Post,  ACS Board Member Reuben Guttman addresses the growing “privatisation of America.” In the piece, Guttman discusses the extensive use of private contractors and questions whether “we really have a modern day United States Government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’?”
     
    U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified last week before the U.S. Sentencing Commission about a proposal that would reduce the federal prison population.  Among other things, the amendments would offer “modestly shorter sentence recommendations [for] low level, nonviolent drug offenders.” Jessica Eaglin at the Brennan Center for Justice has the story.
     
    The Supreme Court is set to review a petition for certiorari in a case involving whether a photographing company can deny services to same-sex couples on the basis of religion. Richard Wolf at USA TODAY breaks down Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock.
     
    As the high court prepares to hear oral argument in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., Lawrence Hurley at Reuters notes how the justices could “dodge the contentious question of whether corporations have religious rights.”
     
    Writing for The Daily Beast, Jamelle Bouie debunks the assumption that “culture” is to blame for inner-city black poverty.
     
    At Opinio Juris, Julian Ku discusses his participation in a hearing of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that addressed the National Security Agency’s surveillance authority.
  • March 19, 2014

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been a passionate advocate for progressive ideals during her long tenure on the Supreme Court. However, many on the left are urging Justice Ginsburg to retire at the end of the Court’s current term, in order to avoid risking “a Republican president filling her seat.” Garrett Epps at The Atlantic explains why “this Supreme Court justice will leave the bench when she's ready, regardless of what others think.”
     
    Writing for NYRblog, David Cole—Co-Faculty Advisor for the Georgetown University Law Center ACS Student Chapter—comments on the growing controversy regarding the Central Intelligence Agency’s alleged tampering with a Senate torture investigation. Cole argues that the CIA’s “desperate efforts to hide the details … are only the latest evidence of the poisonous consequences of a program euphemistically called ‘enhanced interrogation.’”
     
    The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law has announced a plan to allow its students the opportunity to end law school early while earning a Master of Legal Studies degree. Karen Sloan at The National Law Journal  breaks down the first “risk-free Juris doctor program.”
     
    Ronald K. L. Collins at Concurring Opinions examines how Justice Antonin Scalia’s “view of textualism and originalism … plays out in the First Amendment context.”
     
    At Balkinization, Marty Lederman provides readers with a collection of his commentary on Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. A list of ACS resources on Hobby Lobby and other challenges to the Affordable Care Act can be found here.
     
    Peter Hardin at GavelGrab discusses the Tennessee Supreme Court’s decision to uphold retention elections.