ACLU Sues Over Free Speech, Privacy Rights Issues
Weekly summary of world news
Norm Olson June 11, 2013
Two prominent civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency over its program that reportedly collects the telephone records of millions of American customers of Verizon, Fox News reports. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union say in a lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday that the program violates First Amendment rights of free speech and association. It also alleges the program violates Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. The lawsuit additionally alleges the government’s program exceeds Congress’ authority. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer says the program is the same as requiring Americans to give the government a “daily report” of their activities and conversations. In other news, politicaloutcast.com reports that a petition has been created on the White House’s official petitions page, calling for President Obama to send in his resignation and spare the nation from further disgrace. It was created June 7 and has until July 7 to collect the 100,000 digital signatures that would require the White House address the petition officially. As of day 4 of the petition’s existence, it has already garnered about 13,500 signatures. At the current average rate, the requisite 100,000 signatures will be reached a few days before the July 7 deadline.
- Former GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul insisted on Tuesday that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is not a traitor, but he fears the U.S. government may send drones or a cruise missile to kill the 29-year-old, who has fled the United States, newsmax.com reports. “I don’t think for a minute that he’s a traitor,” Paul told Fox Business’ Melissa Francis. “Everybody’s worried about him and what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to convict him of treason, and how they’re going to kill him, but what about the people who destroy our Constitution?” the former Texas Republican congressman asserted. “What kind of penalty for those individuals who just take the Fourth Amendment and destroy it? What do we think about people who assassinate American citizens without trials and assume that that’s the law of the land? That’s where our problem is.” Paul said that “our problem isn’t with people who are trying to tell us the truth about what’s happening” as in the case of Snowden, and he fears that the U.S. government may try to kill the former contractor. “I’m worried about somebody in our government might kill him with a Cruise missile or a drone missile,” Paul said. “I mean we live in a bad time where American citizens don’t even have rights and that they can be killed, but the gentleman is trying to tell the truth about what’s going on.” Paul added that there are no signs Snowden is trying to sell U.S. government secrets to Russia or another foreign government, otherwise he wouldn’t have made himself so vulnerable. “He’s not defecting, there are no signs of that happening,” Paul said. “It’s a shame that we are in an age where people who tell the truth about what the government is doing get into trouble.” He pointed to the case of a CIA agent who was imprisoned for acknowledging that torture takes place at Guantanamo. “This is not good that the American people are spied on and the secrets are kept in government,” he said. “That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be the other way around.”
- As Americans demand answers about the government’s wholesale electronic snooping on its citizens, the primary snooper—the National Security Agency—is building a monstrous digital datacenter in a remote corner of Utah capable of sorting through and storing every e-mail, voicemail, and social media communication it can get its hands on, Fox News reports. “This top-secret data warehouse could hold as many as 1.25 million 4-terabyte hard drives, built into some 5,000 servers to store the trillions upon trillions of ones and zeroes that make up your digital fingerprint.” “But that’s just one way to catalog people,” said Charles King, principal analyst at data center consulting firm Pund-IT. “The NSA—like any large organization—is using numerous kinds of storage systems,” King told FoxNews, including “innovative SSD and in-memory systems for high performance applications like real time analytics.”
- A 72-year-old Southern California grandmother shot at—and narrowly missed—a man trying to break into her home, Fox News reports. Jan Cooper, of Anaheim, said Tuesday she was shocked at the attention her action was getting but does not regret defending herself and her husband, an 85-year-old World War II veteran who uses a wheelchair. Cooper fired one shot from her .357-magnum Smith & Wesson revolver around 12:30 a.m. Sunday as a man attempted to break into her home. During a 911 call of the incident, Cooper could be heard begging with the dispatcher to send deputies and warning that she had a gun at the ready as her Rottweiler was barking furiously in the background. The suspect, 31-year-old Brandon Alexander Perez, was not hit and was arrested a short while later by responding deputies, who heard the gunshot, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Perez had a rap sheet that included other burglary and narcotics charges and was on parole and staying at a halfway house not far from the Coopers’ address, Amormino said.
- As the IRS scandal deepens, a new tape has been released this week showing a disturbing phone call the Internal Revenue Service placed to a nonprofit organization, lifenews.com reports. Alliance Defending Freedom, a pro-life legal group, made the audio available of IRS officials telling a group that provides support to women in abusive pregnancy situations to keep its faith to itself. In the recorded phone conversation, an IRS agent lectures the president of the organization about forcing its religion and beliefs on others and inaccurately explains that the group must remain neutral on issues such as abortion. ADF is providing legal representation for the group, which did not receive its tax-exempt status until last week after waiting nearly two and a half years after applying for it. “The IRS is a tax collector; it shouldn’t be allowed to be the speech and belief police,” said Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The current scandal isn’t new but has merely exposed the abuse of power that characterizes this agency and threatens our fundamental freedoms.”
- Growing disagreements over the role of Calvinism will make the Southern Baptist Convention stronger, not weaker, as long as its focus remains on evangelism, members of an advisory team commissioned to study the the topic told hundreds in Houston June 10, baptiststandard.com reports. But whether the rest of the convention sees it that way will depend on churches, pastors, and individuals deciding to trust Baptists with whom they disagree on the subject, team members said. “I sense an extreme level of anti-Calvinist” sentiment across the convention, said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, who convened an advisory team made up of Calvinist and non-Calvinist Southern Baptists. A Tennessee pastor said Calvinist beliefs in who can be saved and how they come to be saved could tear the convention apart, despite what the report concluded. Committee member Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said those are two issues on which everyone agrees. “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” Mohler said.
- As education in America’s public schools continues to suffer, parents are choosing homeschooling at an ever-increasing rate, worldmag.com reports. The number of parents starting their primary school children in homeschool is growing seven times faster than students enrolling in K–12 schools every year, according to a recent report from Education News. “The reasons for the shift are clear,” said the report. “Homeschool students typically score between the 65th and 89th percentile on placement exams. Students at traditional schools average on the 50th percentile. College recruiters are acting on these numbers: Students from ‘non-traditional education environments’ get into college and earn four-year degrees at much higher rates than those from public and private schools. ‘Homeschoolers are actively recruited by schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Stanford University, and Duke,’ according to the report. In addition to better results, the report also indicates that homeschool parents get more bang for their buck, dishing out on average between $500 and $600 per year for a student compared to the $10,000 per year average spent on public school students. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the study is what it reveals about the social aspects of homeschooling. Public schools have long wrestled with ‘achievement gaps’ among their students, but those gaps simply don’t exist for the homeschool community. There’s no difference in achievement between sexes, income levels, race, or ethnicity among students educated at home, according to the report. The study also addressed the all-too-familiar question, ‘But how are you socialized?’ claiming that those educated at home tend to be more socially engaged than their peers. The report quoted another study by the National Home Education Research Institute, which said homeschool students demonstrate ‘healthy social, psychological, and emotional development, and success into adulthood.’ The study concluded that researchers such as Dr. Brian Ray expect ‘a notable surge in the number of children being homeschooled in the next 5 to 10 years,’ in terms of absolute numbers and percentage, as past homeschool students homeschool their own children and results continue to outpace public schools.”
- The New England Patriots signed Tim Tebow on Tuesday, reports espn.go.com. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Tebow signed a two-year contract that includes no guaranteed money. “Tim is a talented player, is smart and works hard. We’ll see how it goes,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. Tebow was signed to be a quarterback on the Patriots’ roster, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder. When asked what position Tebow will play, Belichick said, “We will see.”
- The FBI has removed material that may be offensive to muslims from its anti-terror training guidelines, cbn.com reports. A report from Judicial Watch shows that materials linking the Muslim Brotherhood to terrorism or profiling terrorists as young male immigrants of Middle Eastern appearance are now gone. The FBI called such references “unsuitable in the current political context.” An independent group of subject matter experts reviewed the FBI’s training curricula on counter terrorism. The group recommended the removal of presentations and curricula on Islam from FBI offices around the country.