The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Civil Liberties News for Week Ending June 22, 2006

by Jessica Azulay

A weekly run-down of stories related to rights, privacy, etc. @ Muslims fight profiling @ Lynn Stewart probes NSA @ S.D. abortion ban @ Voting Rights Act renewal @ New Orleans curfew


Arabs, Muslims fight back vs. border profiling

Nine US citizens have filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over inaccuracies in the terrorism watch list. The plaintiffs say they have been stopped repeatedly by border agents when entering the United States, subjected to humiliation, harassment and abuse before eventual clearance for entry. The American Civil Liberties Union is litigating the case on their behalf.

The suit accuses federal intelligence agencies of creating the "landscape for these recurring abusive detentions at United States ports of entry by initiating terrorism-related investigations, on insubstantial and highly speculative grounds, of tens of thousands of innocent United States citizens who are predominantly of the Muslim faith and/or of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent."

The ACLU lawyers say that the result of these "speculative investigations" is a huge database, subject to error and impotent against actual terrorism threats. The Terrorist Screening Database, which is maintained by the federal government, is reported to contain 200,000 names of people who have "any degree of terrorism nexus."

Lawyer demands to know NSA involvement in own case

Lynne Stewart, a lawyer convicted of terrorism-related charges, has asked a federal court to compel the federal government to disclose whether the National Security Agency’s illegal warrantless domestic-spying program helped the prosecution in its case against her and her co-defendants. Stewart and translator Mohammed Yousry were convicted last year for providing material support for terrorism while representing Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted of involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

In a motion filed with a New York District Court, Stewart asks the court to force the government to tell her if any evidence or information used in the investigation or prosecution of the case against her came from the NSA’s surveillance program.

Stewart also says that she and her lawyer used AT&T phone and e-mail communications while preparing her defense in the case, including "identification and discussion of potential witnesses, evaluations of potential jurors and strategies for jury selection, analysis of the government’s evidence, and preparation of the defendant’s testimony."

In May, USA Today reported that AT&T, along with other major telecommunications companies, had shared client databases with the NSA

The motion also notes that the NSA does not respect attorney-client privilege. A March 2006 letter from Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella to Representative James Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Committee about the NSA surveillance program said it "does not specifically target the communications of attorneys or physicians, calls involving such persons would not be categorically excluded from interception."

Activists put repeal of abortion-ban on S. Dakota ballot

Hoping to turn back a legislated ban on abortions in South Dakota, reproductive-rights groups have gathered enough signatures to temporarily stop the law from taking affect and to put the issue to voters in November.

In February, South Dakota lawmakers shoved their state to the center of the national debate on abortion rights by voting to outlaw nearly all abortions in the state, making an exception only when a woman’s life is in danger.

At the time, the bill’s chief sponsor, Representative Roger Hunt (R-Brandon), told The NewStandard that the new makeup of the Supreme Court had propelled the bill. Proponents hope to force a High Court showdown that could potentially overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

Abortion-rights activists shifted into high gear over passage of the South Dakota ban, vowing to gather the 16,728 signatures from registered voters necessary to usurp the law with a ballot initiative. On Monday, South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson certified that activists were successful.

Voting Rights Act renewal meets delays, resistance

Republican lawmakers forced their party’s leadership to delay a floor vote on renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, landmark legislation that tried to eliminate discriminatory practices around elections. House leadership had promised a vote yesterday and had predicted it would pass with bipartisan support.

After objections by several Republicans, however, the vote was delayed. Several representatives from southern states objected to a provision in the law that requires Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, along with districts in a handful of other states with especially poor records on voter descrimination, to seek federal approval of changes to their voting rules. Others wanted to nix a provision added to the legislation in 1975 that requires governments to provide for multilingual ballots and election materials in areas with high populations of immigrants.

Politicians see curfew as key to ending New Orleans violence

The Associated Press reports that New Orleans and Louisiana officials are pushing for a curfew against minors in the Crescent City.

After five young people were killed in New Orleans last weekend, Governor Kathleen Blanco asked the city to keep children off the streets, and the city is reconstructing a holding center for curfew violators. Police have not identified the ages of any suspects in last weekend’s killings. New Orleans has enforced a curfew against juveniles in the past.

But some question officials’ priorities. "Rushing to the blame-the-victim mentality seems to have little basis in the facts," David Utter, head of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, told the AP. Utter said the city should be rebuilding youth programs and playgrounds instead of detention facilities.







The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

This News Digest originally appeared in the June 22, 2006 edition of The NewStandard.
Jessica Azulay is a staff journalist.

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