Speech and Privacy
Chronicling the daily exceptions to America's free speech and privacy rights

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August 25th, 10:44am 36 notes


The militarized police force unleashed in Ferguson, Missouri over the past two weeks has crushed the civil liberties of black residents angry over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. That law enforcement has shown utter disregard for the rights of protesters and the press is no surprise to many, especially black people, who have had to contend with pervasive surveillance and harassment in varied forms for much of American history. Yet what makes the situation in Ferguson look especially scary and dystopic are the militarized weapons being used to crush constitutional rights.

The first civil liberty to be trampled on by cops was the right to protest, or as the Constitution puts it, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Protests have occurred almost daily since August 9, the day Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. When demonstrations broke out over the shooting, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used vehicles that produce piercing sounds to disperse the crowd.

In the wake of these scenes, groups like Human Rights Watch have charged that the methods law enforcement used have intimidated peaceful demonstrators. “Ferguson police are compounding problems with threats and the use of unnecessary force against people peacefully protesting the police killing of Michael Brown,” Human Rights Watch’s U.S. researcher Alba Morales said in a statement. “They should be upholding basic rights to peaceful assembly and free speech, not undermining them.”

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, and Daria Roithmayr, a law professor, argue that excessive tear gas and rubber bullets also violate the constitutional right to due process. “The due process clause bans the police from using excessive force even when they are within their rights to control a crowd or arrest a suspect,” they write.

Despite this criticism, the police in Ferguson have not changed their tactics.

When citizens with camera phones and journalists have tried to document police tactics, officers have sought to prevent them from doing so. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a journalist who was told by police to stop recording with his camera. On August 15, the police and the ACLU reachedan agreement that would allow the videotaping of police officers as long as officers are able to do their jobs.

The crackdown on dissent escalated on August 16, when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon imposed a midnight curfew on the city. Nixon’s justification was that the curfew would prevent looting, which was taking place sporadically in the city. But many residents feared that the curfew would lead to police violence and clashes with residents, which is what happened.

After the curfew imposition, three groups—American Civil Liberties Union, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund—issued a statement outlining how the order was unconstitutional. The order “suspends the constitutional right to assemble by punishing the misdeeds of the few through the theft of constitutionally protected rights of the many,” the statement said. “The suspension of constitutional rights in Ferguson does much more than suppress speech. It subjects an entire community to imprisonment in their homes—a lockdown on the residents of Ferguson who have done no wrong and seek nothing more than justice.”

The curfew was lifted two days after Nixon imposed it.

The civil liberties violations that have received the most attention are the attacks on journalists. Some argue that Ferguson only became a national story because police in riot gear went into a McDonald’s and arrested two journalists: Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and the Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery. Police told the journalists to stop recording what they were doing and assaulted them both.

President Barack Obama condemned the violations of press freedom the next day. There’s “no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights,” the President said. But the police kept on targeting reporters. Law enforcement officers in Ferguson have threatened journalists, tear-gassed them, shot them with rubber bullets and arrested them. In total, 17 journalists have been arrested while on the job in Ferguson, according to a count kept by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

The trashing of core civil liberties has become a frequent occurrence at major protests. In 2004, the New York Police Department arrested 1,800 protesters, passersby and journalists during demonstrations centered around the Republican National Convention. The city eventually agreed to pay $18 million to settle the lawsuits stemm from the mass arrests. The New York police also cracked down on protests and the press when Occupy Wall Street started in 2011.

Ferguson is no anomaly. There will be plenty of lawsuits filed against the police for violating constitutional rights. But the trampling of civil liberties points to a systemic problem that individual court orders and settlements won’t fix. The police in America have decided that when it suits them, the Constitution doesn’t matter one bit. The residents of Ferguson likely knew this before the killing of Michael Brown led to mass protests. But for many Americans captivated by the scenes in Missouri, it’s a new reality.

August 21st, 8:44pm 4 notes


New Post has been published on http://fsrn.org/2014/08/qa-aclu-of-missouri-on-legal-actions-surrounding-ferguson-protests/

Q&A: ACLU of Missouri on legal actions surrounding Ferguson protests

The protests in Ferguson, Missouri have brought militarized policing policies and how they can…

August 15th, 9:11pm 25 notes


Back in March serious allegations came out of the Senate that the CIA was monitoring and even hacking Senate computers. They were denied vehemently at the time by CIA director John Brennan, who went so far as to say “that’s just beyond the scope of reason.”

Unsurprisingly, of course, the CIA has now come out saying that, yes, they did in fact spy on Senate aides’ computers. Oh, and that they’re sorry. Very sorry.

This is stuff that would have been a major scandal not too long ago, causing a public outcry for the heads of those responsible.

Today, it seems par for the course. It’s taken for granted that governments around the world, spearheaded by Uncle Sam, monitor communication via email, phone, social networks, webcam etc. en masse.

And nothing happens.

Keep reading

August 15th, 9:06pm 1,484 notes



Cenk Uygur from “The Young Turks” talking about the Ferguson protests and the silly attitudes of the city officials.

The good news is that protests Thursday evening were allowed and residents weren’t attacked with tear gas by officers. Still, this attitude was a completely ridiculous one to have at any point.

(via questionall)

August 15th, 9:03pm 601 notes

And this is why free speech and the right to speak out is so important!

(Source: livefromphilly, via questionall)

August 11th, 9:49pm 17 notes


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Monsanto Wants 14-Year Reuters Veteran Reporter Fired for Talking About GMO Dangers
August 11, 2014
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Source: Huffington Post

GMO proponents pressuring Reuters to remove journalist who presents both sides of GMO debate

Good journalism is founded on balance and fairness. This means presenting several sides of a story or points of view to help readers gain a more comprehensive perspective on a topic. Without balance, news can be skewed to a particular point of view.

Reuters’ journalist Carey Gillam has covered issues surrounding genetically modified foods for the past 16 years, no easy task with the growing GMO controversy and its polarized pro- and anti-GMO perspectives. But Gillam’s reporting has been balanced and objective, giving both sides equal treatment. Civil Eats, an award-winning daily news source focusing on food issues, recently cited Gillam in an article, “24 Women Food and Agriculture Reporters You Should Know About.”

In an April 9th Reuters article, “Bill seeks to block mandatory GMO food labeling by states,” Gillam wrote: “Advocates of labeling say consumers deserve to know if the food they eat contains GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.” A paragraph later she wrote: “Makers of biotech crops and many large food manufacturers have fought mandatory labeling, arguing that genetically modified crops are not materially different and pose no safety risk.”

That is balanced journalism, presenting both sides to the story.

Attacks by GMO proponents

Unfortunately, GMO proponents object to Gillam’s balanced reporting and have pressured her editors at Reuters to remove her from covering GMO topics and to even fire her.

Read More…