News & Opinion

Freedom of information: Federal judge orders release of records of spying on Nor Cal Muslims

A federal judge rejected the FBI’s contention that they could withhold information about their surveillance program targeting the Northern California Muslim community. The judge ruled they could not use a “law enforcement exemption” to retain information in a Freedom of Information Act request. (ACLU of Northern California, March 23, 2015, by Julia Harumi Mass and […]

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Law professor: Corporations using First Amendment to evade regulation

Harvard law professor John Coates argues that granting corporations free speech rights has resulted in a “form of corruption.”  “… the use of litigation by managers to entrench reregulation in their personal interests at the expense of shareholders, consumers, and employees. In aggregate, they degrade the rule of law, rendering it less predictable, general and […]

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Free speech: Supreme Court ponders whether states control vanity plate messages

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue of when it was allowable for state governments to block certain types of messages on license plates. One view holds that license plates qualify as government speech thus subject to control, another that they constitute a public forum that would necessarily preclude government censorship. The specific […]

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Federal judge orders release of photos showing abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Obama administration must release photos showing abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan according to a federal court ruling. The administration has long tried to bury the disturbing images fearful that publication would result in terrorist attacks. The judge gave the government two months to decide on an appeal. (Associated Press, March 21, 2015, […]

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ACLU continues quest for information about targeted drone killings

The ACLU is filing a freedom of information lawsuit pertaining to the government’s targeted killings using drones. Thousands of suspected terrorists have been killed in several countries, but the public knows little about the program, how strikes are actually approved, their effectiveness including whether civilians are killed or injured and how citizens in the targeted […]

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Goodbye to transparency: StingRay punches hole in Democracy’s shield

Cell site simulators – StingRay, KingFish – used by police around the country to intercept cell phone calls, operate in secrecy under FBI-sanctioned nondisclosure agreements with Harris Corporation, the manufacturer. A Santa Clara County (California) supervisor asked to approve a half million dollar down payment for StingRay was told “only people with badges” could see […]

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Sunshine Week inspires request for improved performance in federal government transparency

Transparency advocates are finding a lot to criticize in the Obama administration’s transparency record, praising its passage of the 2014 DATA Act and the release of catalogs of federal agency data but decrying the robust use of the Espionage Act to prosecute national security whistleblowers and federal agencies’ resistance to disclosure. (Government Executive, March 16, […]

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Free speech: Group wins right to run anti-Muslim ads on Philadelphia buses

A federal judge ruled that Philadelphia’s public  transit service must run anti-Muslim ads with the message, “Jew Hatred: It’s in the Quran.” In response to the ruling, a staff attorney for the Council on American Islamic Relations said, “The First Amendment protects everyone, the hateful and the loving alike. Instead of suppressing dishonest and offensive […]

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Brown Act roundup: Fromer school trustees allege improper actions in closed sessions

Two former school board members filed a complaint with the Marin County district attorney alleging that the Ross Valley school board violated the Brown Act, California’s open meetings law. The allegations concern actions that pertain to a charter school that the former members are trying to establish. The complainants are contending that the board discussed […]

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Free speech: FDA wants to give pharmaceutical industry more leeway in sales pitches

In a nod to the First Amendment, the Federal Drug Administration is proposing new guidelines allowing pharmaceutical companies to downplay official safety warnings in sales pitches about drugs. The industry has long argued that it has a free speech right to publish information about their products without government restrictions. (The Washington Post, March 11, 2015, […]

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