Archive for June, 2013

http://http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/25/in_affirmative_action_ruling_supreme_court

It’s no secret that racial intolerance and hate groups that feed these attitudes are on the rise. As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, many are reacting with extremism and hate-based actions, while others find value in interacting with people from different backgrounds. What role, if any, do you believe our government should play in this evolving social landscape? This week, the Supreme Court is handing down landmark decisions on both affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. As far as I’m concerned, the court is needed to step in and articulate the values of justice, human rights, and fairness that our nation is supposedly founded upon and ultimately, help us as a society move forward. To do this, we must admit how much further we still have to go in the fight for fair treatment of all regardless or race, creed, gender, economic status, or an other category the ugly side of human nature can find to divide us.

via Democracy Now
With just days before the summer recess, the Supreme Court has handed down the first of four major decisions on issues of civil rights, discrimination and equality, ruling on a challenge to the use of race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions. The petitioner, Abigail Fisher, accused the University of Texas at Austin of discrimination for rejecting her college application, she says, because she is white. Many had expected the court’s conservative members to seize upon the case as part of a right-wing effort to end affirmative action for good. But instead, the court came down with an opinion that gives both sides reasons to cheer. In a 7-to-1 decision, justices sent the case back to a federal appeals court and told it to consider affirmative action under a harsher standard. But they also refused to overturn the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which rejected the use of racial quotas in college admissions but allowed for less direct methods of affirmative action in order to improve diversity

ACLU case  on privacyThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, has filed a lawsuit against the United States government over the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone spying program. The ACLU believes that such a surveillance program is a violation of the organization’s constitutional rights, specifically the first and fourth amendments.

In perhaps one of the first challenges under a program that that the Obama administration has sustained and expanded, the ACLU lawsuit was filed on the basis that it is a customer of Verizon. The phone company was implicated in a story by The Guardian newspaper earlier this month for participating in a scheme to provide the NSA with customer records.

Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s legal director, said in a statement:

This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens.

It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.

For those that may not know, the US Constitution’s first and fourth amendments guarantee the right of free speech and also the protection from unreasonable search and seizures, respectively.

This isn’t the first time the ACLU has tried to get the US government’s surveillance programs overturned. In 2008, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the government over the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which enabled law enforcement to execute “warrantless wiretapping programs”. That case was dismissed by the US Supreme Court by a vote of 5-4 with the majority opinion stating that the ACLU couldn’t prove that they had been monitored.

Of course, now with new information concerning the NSA’s activities public, this could give the ACLU another bite at the proverbial apple.

Surely, any outcome from this lawsuit will have repercussions on the way the US government is able to conduct surveillance. It will be interesting to see how it affects its PRISM program and if any verdict in favor of the ACLU will change the way the country protects itself.

Here is the ACLU’s lawsuit filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York: