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In This Issue:

-- NSA Spying on Military, International Aid Workers -- ACLU Files FOIA

-- Ballot Initiatives Put Freedom on the Line this Election Season

-- Update: US Supreme Court Denies Troy Davis, Georgia sets Execution


-- New Law Restores Rights to Americans with Disabilities

-- The End of America

-- School District Punishes Kindergarten Student Because Of Family's

Religious Beliefs, ACLU Sues

In the States:

-- U.S. Supreme Court Protects Newly Registered Ohioans' Voting


-- Victory in Michigan Voting Rights Case


NSA Spying on Military and International Aid Workers -- ACLU Files


Last week, ABC News reported that NSA officials have intercepted,

listened to and passed around the phone calls of hundreds of innocent

U.S. citizens working overseas -- including soldiers, journalists and

human rights workers from organizations like the International Red

Cross and Doctors Without Borders -- even after it was clear that the

calls were not in any way related to national security. NSA officials

regularly passed around salacious calls such as the private "phone

sex" calls of military officers calling home, according to the report.

This week, the ACLU filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests

demanding that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Justice

Department disclose any policies and procedures pertaining to how the

NSA protects Americans' privacy rights when it collects, stores and

disseminates private U.S. communications. The NSA has not released a

public version of its procedures for protecting the privacy of U.S.

communications since 1993.

"The American public needs to know whether the NSA's procedures are

sufficiently protective of our privacy rights," said Melissa Goodman,

staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

"Unfortunately, there is often no meaningful court oversight of the

NSA's surveillance activities, and the NSA is left to police itself."

In July 2008, Congress enacted the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA),

giving the NSA unprecedented power to spy on Americans without

warrants. The law was passed over the strong objections of not only

the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, but many members of

Congress and the American public. The FISA Amendments Act permits

dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of Americans' international

communications -- precisely the kind of invasive and ineffective

monitoring that was reported last week.

The ACLU filed a landmark lawsuit to stop the government from

conducting surveillance under the new wiretapping law, arguing that

the law violates the Fourth Amendment by giving the government

virtually unchecked power to intercept Americans' international

e-mails and telephone calls. The case was filed on behalf of a broad

coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media


"The FAA shows the danger of Congress choosing to legislate before it

investigates," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU

Washington Legislative Office. "We now know that whistleblowers

approached the Senate Judiciary Committee last year with claims of NSA

malfeasance and that efforts to bring them to light went nowhere.

Congress should have been much more aggressive while investigating

those allegations. If it had, the FISA Amendments Act may have had the

safeguards needed to prevent this kind of abuse in the future. As it

stands now, the privacy rights of Americans are as protected as any

given NSA analyst allows them to be."

Read more about NSA surveillance gone amok on the ACLU's blog.

http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=x6P7BY-is3Mu4BgniDgGjA.. Learn more information about the ACLU's ongoing FAA lawsuit.



Ballot Initiatives Put Freedom on the Line this Election Season

With Election Day less than three weeks away, the ACLU's

Constitution Voter campaign is shifting into high gear. The ACLU is

taking a stand on crucial initiatives that will appear on

November's ballot in 11 different states. The ACLU doesn't

take sides when it comes to candidates for office. But, when people

try to use ballot initiatives to undermine freedom, it is our job to

be at the center of the action, doing everything we can to protect the

Constitution. We're working hard -- committing millions of

dollars and enormous amounts of energy -- to defeat the November 4th

ballot initiatives aimed at undermining your constitutional rights.

Check out all the ballot initiatives we're campaigning

on, and then send an eCard to friends and family in these states. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=KAU0Rdj24FRl1PElYZR1Kg..


Update: US Supreme Court Denies Troy Davis, Georgia Sets Execution


Once again, Troy Anthony Davis has been issued a date for execution by

the Chatham County Superior Court. He is scheduled to be executed on

October 27, 2008.

On Monday, October 13, 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States

declined to review his appeal, and a warrant of execution has been


Mr. Davis is about to be executed for the murder of off-duty police

officer Mark MacPhail. He will be executed even though no murder

weapon was found and no physical evidence was discovered. He was

convicted based on eyewitness identification by nine non-police

witnesses. Seven of those witnesses have now recanted or given

contradictory statements prior to the trial. Several of the witnesses

say that they were coerced into giving false statements. One of the

witnesses that has not recanted is an alternative suspect in the crime

and has been heard claiming that he killed an off-duty police officer.

None of the evidence about the recanted testimony or Mr. Davis's

possible innocence has been heard by a court.

Please make your voice heard. Tell the world that evidence of

innocence must trump court procedure. No one should face the ultimate

punishment while evidence of innocence goes unexamined. Make your

voice heard on behalf of justice.

Send a letter to the editor on behalf of justice and Mr.

Davis. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=BohwGzPA815DnRcOYA5ctQ..

Email the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, and ask them

to reconsider this case and stop this execution. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=Evkphn9jYDQMiIddiXLQ8g..


New Law Restores Rights to Americans with Disabilities

In a victory for civil rights, the ACLU celebrated President Bush

signing into law last month the Americans with Disabilities Act

Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The legislation rolls back two decades

worth of legal decisions that have thwarted the original intent of the

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).

The ADA was landmark legislation when first passed in 1990 with strong

bipartisan support. The original legislation sought to protect

individuals treated unfairly due to an actual or perceived disability.

Like other historic civil rights laws, the ADA was designed to promote

equal opportunity, economic independence and full participation in

American society.

But, in the past two decades, legal decisions have limited the ADA's

protections. Courts have held that individuals with impairments who

function well due to their use of "mitigating measures" - such as

medication, hearing aids, and prosthetics - are not covered by the

ADA, even if they are discriminated against because of that

impairment. Judges have also interpreted the definition of

"disability" so strictly that they have created an overly demanding

standard for qualifying as disabled. The courts also have placed an

overly heavy burden of proof on the victims by requiring individuals

who allege their employer regarded them as disabled to show that their

employer believed them incapable of performing a broad range of jobs,

not just the job they were denied.

"The courts have gradually diminished important civil rights

protections for employees with disabilities," said Deborah J. Vagins,

ACLU Legislative Counsel. "The ADAAA restores the original promise of

the ADA -- that individuals with disabilities, who are willing and

able to work, should be able to do so free from discrimination."


The End of America

The End of America, a new documentary from award-winning filmmakers

Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg (The Trials of Darryl Hunt, The Devil

Came on Horseback), based on Naomi Wolf's 2007 book of the same

name, details the ten steps a country takes when it slides from an

open to a closed society. It's an historical look at trends in

once-functioning democracies from modern history that are being

repeated in our country today. It gives any reader (or viewer of the

lecture or film) a much-needed history lesson and constitutional

refresher. Most importantly, it puts the recent, gradual loss of civil

liberties in the U.S. in a historical context. The average American

might not be alarmed at AT&T selling our private information to the

Bush administration, but when this action is seen as part of a larger

series of erosions and events, a pattern emerges with unfortunate

consequences that become disturbingly clear.


On Tuesday, October 21, the film will premiere online via SnagFilms

and will include a special introduction from ACLU Executive Director

Anthony Romero. The film in its entirety and Anthony's remarks will be

available to watch on SnagFilms.com for free.


Following our virtual premiere on the 21st, Rights / Camera / Action

will continue to host a "multiplex" on Snag with civil liberties

related films on an ongoing basis.

Stay tuned for the new official site of Rights / Camera / Action -- to

launch Tuesday, October 21 -- which will have more information on


The End of America (including exclusive footage from its premiere at

the Hamptons Film Festival tonight) and other important civil

liberties films and exciting new projects.

Learn more about the film.



School District Punishes Kindergarten Student Because Of Family's

Religious Beliefs, ACLU Sues

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in Houston, TX two weeks ago against the

Needville Independent School District (NISD) for punishing a

five-year-old American Indian kindergarten student for practicing and

expressing his family's religious beliefs and heritage by wearing his

hair long in violation of school rules.

School officials have forced the student into isolated in-school

suspension since September 3, 2008 because he and his family refuse to

abide by a district mandate that he stuff his long hair, part of his

American Indian religious and cultural heritage, down the back of his

shirt while at school -- a requirement that would cause A.A.(the

child) shame, embarrassment and physical discomfort.

"NISD is trying to force A.A. and his parents to choose between

practicing and expressing his religion and identity and obtaining a

public education," said Fleming Terrell, staff attorney for the ACLU

of Texas. "But Texas law and the First Amendment both prohibit the

district from forcing parents and students to make this choice."

Read more.



Know Your Voting Rights


The ACLU is working tirelessly to ensure that the upcoming

Presidential election is a fair process with no unconstitutional

restrictions on voting rights or access. Below are some examples of

our voting rights efforts around the country as the election



U.S. Supreme Court Protects Newly Registered Ohioans' Voting


In a major victory for voting rights, the U.S. Supreme Court today

issued an order protecting voters in Ohio from attempts to challenge

their registrations based on small inaccuracies in government

databases. The order reverses an appeals court decision that required

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to provide all 88 county Boards of

Elections with lists of mismatched voters that had discrepancies

between the information on their registration forms and other

government databases. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief early

this morning in support of Brunner's position.

"We are grateful that the Supreme Court reversed the flawed

appeals court decision. Today's decision protects the voting

rights of hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who could have been

illegally disenfranchised," said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff

counsel with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "Had this program

gone forward, Ohio voters would have been subjected to added confusion

and chaos at the polls. While there are plenty of other voter

suppression strategies being deployed in Ohio and across the country,

at least this one has been put to rest."

If the program went into effect, failed matches could have resulted in

hundreds of thousands of lawful voters being purged from the rolls,

challenged at the polls or required to cast provisional ballots.

Read the ACLU's friend-of-the-court brief.

http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=NFQ5KmsD8gzAVrW1S0AIHw.. Learn about the voting rights in your state.



Victory in Michigan Voting Rights Case

In a major victory for voting rights, a judge ruled this week that

Michigan's voter removal program violates federal law and ordered the

state to stop illegally purging voters from the rolls. The decision

comes in a lawsuit filed last month by Advancement Project, the ACLU,

the ACLU of Michigan and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP.

In question was a Michigan state law requiring local clerks to nullify

the registrations of newly-registered voters whenever their voter

identification cards are returned by the post office as undeliverable.

Detroit elections officials report that nearly 30,000 voters per year

in that city alone are removed from the rolls as a result of this

state election law -- particularly affecting minority, low-income and

student communities. The judge ruled that one of Michigan's voter

removal programs violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993

(NVRA) and ordered that state to "immediately discontinue their

practice of cancelling or rejecting a voter's registration based upon

the return of the voter's original voter identification card as


"This is a major victory for Michigan voters and the integrity of our

democratic process," said Meredith Bell-Platts, staff counsel with the

ACLU Voting Rights Project. "Today's decision brings us one step

closer to restoring confidence in an electoral system that has been

poisoned by illegal disfranchisement policies. As a result of the

judge's decision, fewer Michigan voters will be illegally purged and

wrongly disfranchised -- and that's good for everyone."

Learn more about voting rights cases in which the ACLU is

involved. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=nsXTWCiG_4GoG9EUewrjlw..

Learn about the voting rights in your state.



                                               Look at the flowers

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In This Issue:

-- ACLU Releases Presidential Transition Plan to Restore Civil Liberties

-- Expanding Border Powers Create 'Constitution-Free Zone'

That Impacts Two-Thirds of Americans

-- Susan Herman, Constitutional Law Scholar, Elected As New ACLU


-- Observing Another Guantánamo Show Trial

-- A Personal Message from Anthony D. Romero About California's Prop. 8

-- Court Issues Stay of Execution for Troy Davis

-- Human Rights Begin at Home

-- Will You Be Able to Vote on Nov. 4th?

-- Don't Let the IRS Tax Your IRA!

In the States:

-- White House Challenges Validity of 200,000 Registered Voters In Ohio

-- Know Anyone in California? Ask them to vote NO on Proposition 4


ACLU Releases Presidential Transition Plan to Restore Civil Liberties

In anticipation of the presidential election, the ACLU released a set

of recommendations detailing steps that the new president should take

to "clean house," renew freedom, and restore the

nation's reputation.

"This past administration has left us with a disastrous legacy

of bad policy, abuse of power, and civil liberties violations,"

said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington Legislative

Office. "The next president, whoever he is, must immediately

begin the process of undoing this far-reaching assault on our

nation's freedoms and core values, and the ACLU's

'to do' list provides a detailed roadmap for achieving


"Actions For Restoring America," outlines actions to be

taken by the next president on his first day in office, in his first

100 days, and in his first year.

The 83-page document proposes actions across a wide variety of topics,

including national security, human rights, women's rights, civil

rights, drug policy, the rights of LGBT Americans, immigrants and

prisoners, privacy and free speech.

Read the entire ACLU transition plan including suggested executive orders,

mandates and directives from the president. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=H0R0aKRlKcP1wV0VGPOPtQ..


Expanding Border Powers Create 'Constitution-Free Zone'

That Impacts Two-Thirds of Americans

The extraordinary powers of customs and border agents to invade the

privacy of individuals at the U.S. border are spreading inland. The

efforts amount to a "Constitution-free Zone" that fully

covers two-thirds of the American population.

"The authorities can do things at the border that they could

never do to citizens and residents inside our country under the

Constitution," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU

Washington Legislative Office. "Yet the government is asserting

that some of these powers extend as far as 100 miles inside the actual

border. It is a classic example of law enforcement powers expanding

far beyond their proper boundaries -- in this case, literally."

Using the latest census data, the ACLU released a map showing the

100-mile "border region" claimed by the government, and

cities and states that fall within it. The map shows 9 of the

nation's top 10 largest metro areas fall within the border zone.

Learn more about 'Constitution-Free Zones.'



Susan Herman, Constitutional Law Scholar, Elected As New ACLU


At a recent meeting, the ACLU Board of Directors elected

constitutional law professor Susan Herman as its new president. Herman

is a Centennial Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School and has served

on the ACLU's National Board for 20 years, on the Executive Committee

for the last 16 and acted as the Board's General Counsel for the last


"I'm deeply honored to have the privilege of leading the ACLU,

especially as our country goes through a period of profound

transition," said Herman. "Through every administration, no matter who

is president, there are always challenges requiring the protection of

our country's fundamental freedoms, and that remains especially true

in these tumultuous times. The ACLU has been and will remain on the

front lines to protect our civil liberties."

Herman replaces Nadine Strossen who stepped down this year after

serving as ACLU President for 18 distinguished years. Strossen will

remain active in ACLU campaigns and continue to teach full time at New

York Law School.

Learn more about Susan Herman.



Observing Another Guantánamo Show Trial

This week, while the eyes of the American public and the world focus

on the final leg of the presidential race, a new trial commenced at

Guantánamo. The trial of Ali Hamza al Bahlul, al Qaeda's alleged

media secretary, is only the second full trial to take place at the

naval base since the first group of detainees was transferred there

from Afghanistan in January 2002.

"Clearly something is fundamentally wrong with a system that admits

evidence obtained through torture, employs ad hoc rules that are made

up on the fly and lacks meaningful constitutional protections," said

Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program who is

observing al-Bahlul's proceedings. "America deserves better than a

system that is incompatible with universal notions of fairness and


Currently, 253 detainees classified as "alien unlawful enemy

combatants" remain in U.S. custody, and only 25 have been charged

before this flawed military commission system.

The ACLU has been present as an independent observer at nearly every

military commission hearing since 2004 and continues to see no

indication that the proceedings are fair, impartial or in accordance

with constitutional principles.

Read Jamil Dakwar's blog series containing his comments and

observations from the hearings. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=PASvvLcDgQhzv34DN5cwyA..


A Personal Message from Anthony D. Romero About California's Prop. 8

Among the many ballot initiatives that impact civil liberties this

November, one in particular is very close to ACLU Executive Director

Anthony Romero. California Proposition 8 would end marriage for

same-sex couples in California and dash hopes for marriage equality in

many states around the country. Anthony sent out a heartfelt letter to

supporters this week, encouraging us all to reach out to friends and

family in California to ask them to vote No on Prop 8. In case you

missed it, you can read Anthony's message here.


You can also,send an eCard you to friends and family.



Court Issues Stay of Execution for Troy Davis

Troy Davis's rollercoaster ride continues.

On October 24, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh

Circuit issued the third eleventh-hour stay of execution that Troy has

received in the past year and a half. The Court directed Troy's

lawyers to try to show why he is entitled to a new appeal to pursue

his innocence claims.

So, Troy Davis lives to see another day. However, it still remains

uncertain whether he will be given his day in court to prove his

innocence. The question for the 11th Circuit is not whether he is

innocent. Rather, it is whether or not, under the overly stringent

federal habeas rules designed to expedite executions -- not to seek

justice -- Troy is even entitled to a hearing to prove that he is


This is no way to run a criminal justice system. One would think the

system would bend over backwards to ensure that the people it planned

to execute were guilty. But that is not the way our system works.

Nevertheless, it is wonderful news that Troy Davis remains alive.


Human Rights Begin at Home

While the U.S. government was a leading voice in the creation of the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), its policy and practice

over the past 60 years has shown a failure to live up to these ideals.

On December 10th, 2008, we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of this

instrumental document.

A recommitment by the U.S. to the principles and ideals of the UDHR is

essential not only for improving U.S. standing in the world, but, more

importantly, for its promise to ensure equality and justice for all at


Help us send that message to the next Administration and Congress by

signing our UDHR petition today.


Know someone between the ages of 16 and 23? The ACLU's Human

Rights Program is sponsoring a contest for young people to create a

60-second video about an article in the UDHR. The winner will win a

trip to New York to attend the December 10th, 2008 session of the

United Nations General Assembly in New York City! Enter the video

contest today!


Learn more at



Will You Be Able to Vote on Nov. 4th?

The ACLU is going all out to protect the right to vote, and we need

your help getting critical information out.

We're distributing hundreds of thousands of voter empowerment

cards in eight different languages to 34 states across the country.

The cards summarize the basic state and federal laws pertaining to

every voter and list emergency contact numbers for voters to call if

they encounter problems at the polls. The cards also provide answers

to common questions such as: Where do I vote? Is identification

required? How can I minimize potential problems?

Voters can report complaints on a wide range of elections issues --

including equipment malfunctions, access to the polls and

discriminatory or illegal election practices -- by calling the ACLU

toll-free help line:


Find out the voting rights in your state and then share with

friends and family. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=sFw6Dgb5s9dqSozVb4w9Jg..

Know your rights before you head to the polls on Tuesday. Get our top

10 voting tips by watching this short video. Then, http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=YKD8muW-IhknobGutxn0oA..


Don't Let the IRS Tax Your IRA!

Do you have an Individual Retirement Account and are at an age where

you are required to take taxable distributions, whether you need them

or not? You know how taxing that experience can be! Why not take

advantage of the new "charitable IRA rollover" law. If you are 70 1/2

or older, you can make a tax free gift directly from your IRA to the

ACLU Foundation. Your IRA withdrawal will be free from federal income

tax and count toward your required minimum distribution. For more

information, visit www.aclu.org/irarollover


Have Questions? Email: legacy@aclu.org

This information is not intended as tax or legal advice. We recommend

that you consult with your legal and financial advisors to learn how a

gift would work in your circumstances. Laws and regulations governing

all gifts and availability of certain life income gifts vary by state.


White House Challenges Validity of 200,000 Registered Voters In Ohio

In a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey this week the ACLU

demanded the Department of Justice (DOJ) reject a White House request

to challenge 200,000 registered voters in Ohio.

The White House's request came days after the U.S. Supreme Court

denied an attempt by Ohio Republicans to challenge voters with

discrepancies between the information on their registration forms and

other government databases. There is considerable evidence showing

these databases are fraught with errors that could lead to the

wrongful disfranchisement of thousands of lawful voters.

Last Friday, at the urging of Republican House Minority Leader John

Boehner, the White House requested the Department of Justice

investigate whether 200,000 newly registered Ohio voters must

reconfirm their registration before November 4. However, the databases

that would be used to compare the new voter lists are riddled with

errors and could lead to massive disfranchisement solely due to typos

or other data-entry mistakes.

The removal of voters based on mismatched information at this late

date would violate other federal statutes and constitutional

provisions governing federal elections.

"With the election one week away, this kind of intrusion represents

partisan politics at its worst. In addition, challenging -- or

purging -- lawfully registered voters in the days before an

election invites chaos and undermines the integrity of the democratic

process," read the letter signed by ACLU Executive Director Anthony D.

Romero and Washington Legislative Office Director Caroline


Read the ACLU's letter to Attorney General Mukasey.

http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=zxTusvPMfXpJLvvPeIeEgA.. Learn more about the ACLU Voting Rights Project's efforts to

fight voter suppression this election season. http://action.aclu.org/site/R?i=WPu_TJF6RgsP9f5uoczUYA..


Know Anyone in California? Ask them to vote NO on Proposition 4

For the third time in four years, opponents of legal abortion are

attempting to restrict teenagers' access to abortion.

Mandatory parental notification laws like Prop 4 put teenagers in real

danger. They create barriers to pregnant teenagers' ability to

access critical medical care. A scared, pregnant teen who can't

go to her parents can feel trapped and desperate. She might choose to

have an unsafe, illegal abortion. She might even contemplate suicide.

That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Nurses

Association, California Teachers Association, California Medical

Association, and California Association of School Counselors all

oppose Prop 4.

If you have friends and family in California, please contact them

right now, and ask them to vote NO on Proposition 4.

You can send them a message here.



American Civil Liberties Union

125 Broad Street, 18th Floor

New York, New York 10004-2400

Geraldine Engel and Lisa Sock,



                                               Look at the flowers

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