Civil Liberties

Amnesty International: France's State of Emergency Has Trampled the Rights of Hundreds

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After the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, the French government declared a state of emergency, which has now lasted three months and violated the rights of hundreds, according to a new report from Amnesty International. After thousands of house searches, nighttime raids, travel bans, and curfews, hundreds report being traumatized and stigmatized, according to the report which is titled “Upturned Lives: The Disproportionate Impact of France’s State of Emergency.”

Senate Passes Military Bill That Delays Efforts to Close Guantánamo

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The Senate passed the annual military bill on Nov. 10 with an overwhelming 91-3 vote, reports The New York Times.

The measure includes provisions that prevent the transfer of Guantánamo detainees to the United States, effectively blocking any attempt to close the terrorist detention facility.

14 Years of the Patriot Act

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Today (Oct. 26) marks the fourteenth anniversary of the passage of the Patriot Act, an initiative designed to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to monitor and deter potential terrorist threats.

Though key provisions of the Patriot Act expired earlier this year, many of them were restored by the Senate via passage of the USA Freedom Act, and will be effective through 2019. At the same time, the Senate also voted overwhelmingly to end the NSA’s unmonitored mass surveillance and data collection of phone and email records, formerly justified under the language of the Patriot Act. 

What You Can Do

Illustration by Ken Davis

Organizing around military testing and student privacy has the capacity to produce a rare commodity in social activism: concrete, measurable results. Activists are able to view data on how many students take the ASVAB from year to year and track progress.

1. The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy’s website provides the most up-to-date data on ASVAB testing in every state and territory, including how many students in each state are taking the test and which “release option” schools have chosen.

2. Civil liberties groups are natural allies in this work, but it is just as important to reach out to parent-teacher associations and teachers’ unions.

3. Talk directly to school principals and guidance counselors, educating them on Option 8 and urging them to select it for their school.

4. After securing local victories, move on to statewide efforts. Some states have found legislators willing to sponsor an ASVAB Option 8 bill, similar to those passed in Hawaii and Maryland.

—Patrick Elder and Seth Kershner

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Judge in N.J. Same-Sex Marriage Case has Deep Catholic Roots

Judge Mary Jacobson in her Mercer County courtroom. Photo by Frank Jacobs III / courtesy The Star-Ledger. Via RNS.

The judge who declared same-sex marriage legal in New Jersey was raised a Catholic in Bayonne, a place where the locals still use their church — not their neighborhood — to define where they’re from.

Judge Mary Jacobson graduated in 1971 from Holy Family Academy, a since-shuttered all-girls Catholic high school near her home.

“In Bayonne, you identified yourself by your parish,” said Thomas Olivieri, a retired Superior Court judge in Hudson County and a Bayonne native. “Mary’s family was from St. Mary’s parish. Ours was from St. Vinny’s. We’re both very proud of where we came from.”

The Man Who Would Be King

There are few times as deeply etched in my memory as July 24, 1974, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon had to surrender the tapes subpoenaed by the Watergate special prosecutor. Those tapes offered indisputable proof that Nixon had played a key role in covering up the Watergate break-in and other illegal activities.

I remember thinking, What would Nixon do? Surrendering the tapes would mean political ruin and personal disgrace. Would he obey the court or call out the National Guard? Mercifully, eight hours after the court decision, the White House announced it would comply.

I felt that same chill down my spine listening to President George W. Bush on Dec. 17, 2005, as he attempted to explain the revelations in The New York Times concerning him ordering the National Security Agency to engage in extensive eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without the court order required by the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. Not even mentioning FISA, the president stated proudly, “I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.”

By what authority did Bush ignore the FISA requirement? Bush claimed he was using “...authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force...[and] constitutional authority vested in me as commander-in-chief.” Most legal scholars agree that these arguments are quite a stretch. A group of distinguished lawyers, several of whom worked in senior positions in administrations of both parties, sent members of Congress an extensive legal analysis of Bush’s domestic spying, concluding, “The program appears on its face to violate existing law.”

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Sojourners Magazine March 2006
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